The heads of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) announced an initiative on Thursday in which the CECC would highlight one Chinese political prisoner a day to counter the deluge of Chinese government propaganda to promote the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded China with hosting duties for February’s Winter Olympics – the second time Beijing would host an Olympic tournament – despite widespread condemnation from human rights activists and the victims of the Chinese Communist Party. Under dictator Xi Jinping, Chinese officials are currently engaging in a long list of human rights abuses that include genocide, slavery, live organ harvesting, and extreme repression of basic liberties.
The administration of President Joe Biden, through Secretary of State Antony Blinken, declared China’s eradication of Uyghur people in East Turkistan, an occupied region in western China, a genocide in March. East Turkistan, which the Communist Party refers to as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, is home to an estimated 1,200 concentration camps that, at their peak, housed as many as 3 million people, most of them Uyghur Muslims. Outside of the camps, extensive evidence compiled by human rights experts has revealed the widespread use of slavery, forced sterilization, espionage, indoctrination, and other abuses in an attempt to eliminate Uyghurs and replace them with eastern China’s dominant Han population.
Despite the ongoing genocide, the Biden administration has refused to consider a boycott of the Winter Olympics.
Other crimes the Xi regime stands accused of include the mass imprisonment and torture of other spiritual minorities, such as “illegal” Christians and Falun Gong practitioners; the mass arrests of human rights defense lawyers; and the silencing of a variety of “undesirable” political groups such as feminists, anti-Xi Maoists, and environmentalists.
The CECC has repeatedly written to the IOC urging it to relocate the 2022 Olympic Games or reschedule them to avoid granting China the honor of being a host and the promotional and financial benefits that may come with it. Noting that the IOC has ignored it, the chair of the commission, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and co-chair Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) announced the debut of the #OlympicPrisoner campaign on Thursday.
“We believe it’s a mistake for the IOC to hold these games in China at a time when the Chinese government continues to commit genocide, strip Hong Kong’s autonomy, squeeze journalists, free thinkers, and civil society throughout mainland China and bully its crtitics globally,” McGovern said in a video statement announcing the initiative. Describing the Olympics as a “spectacle designed to distract us” from the Communist Party’s abuses, he explained the CECC agreed to attempt to shift the focus away from the abusers and towards the victims.
In the video, Merkley notes that the CECC would highlight one political prisoner a day for the next 60 days before the Olympics begun.
The CECC began on Thursday by highlighting the story of Huang Qi, a citizen journalist sentenced to 12 years in prison for running a website that documented government human rights abuses – a legitimate exercise of the fundamental freedom of the press, which the Communist Party does not acknowledge.
Citizen journalist #HuangQi remains arbitrarily detained for reporting on rights violations. The #Chinese government promised not to restrict press freedoms during #Olympics2022 despite having one of the world’s worst records on protecting freedom of expression. #OlympicPrisoner pic.twitter.com/80YiOE886f
— China Commission (@CECCgov) December 2, 2021
Huang Qi was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2019 and, according to Amnesty International, suffers from significant medical problems that the Communist Party has not confirmed it is addressing in prison.
“Huang Qi is a prisoner of conscience who has been detained solely for exercising his human right to freedom of expression,” Amnesty declared last year.
On Friday, the CECC highlighted the case of another citizen journalist, Zhang Zhan, who was among the first people to begin exposing the horrific abuses the Communist Party committed in the city of Wuhan in the early days of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
Citizen journalist #ZhangZhan was arrested to silence her work exposing #COVID19’s transmission in #Wuhan and now faces a dire medical crisis from a hunger strike she started in detention. She should be immediately freed. #OlympicPrisoner pic.twitter.com/u6JsbYDW2y
— China Commission (@CECCgov) December 3, 2021
Zhang, a lawyer by trade, was arrested in May 2020 after spending much of the winter attempting to publicize the chaos in Wuhan, recording videos of hospitals and other key facilities in the city that revealed poor management and abuse of Chinese coronavirus victims and families. The Communist Party still maintains that it handled the early days of the pandemic well and is the only nation to have successfully conquered the virus. In reality, its arrests and silencing of doctors, holding of mass superspreader events, and refusal to promptly alert global medical authorities to the spread of a novel infectious disease greatly increased the severity of the outbreak, allowing it to evolve into a pandemic.
Zhang was sentenced to four years in prison for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a crime in China.
“The first cases highlighted will be imprisoned journalists and citizen journalists, given the PRC’s already disputed promise to allow free and unrestricted media access during the 2022 Olympics,” a statement published by the CECC on Thursday detailed. “In subsequent weeks, the CECC will include cases of imprisoned Uyghurs, Tibetans, labor activists, Christians, Falun Gong, Hong Kongers, human rights lawyers, women rights and democracy advocates among the over 1,500 cases of known political prisoners found in the Political Prisoner Database.”