“Never again” is happening, again

Junior Tenzin Werner participated in protests in support of Uyghurs this past fall, condemning China’s actions and displaying solidarity by the Tibetan community.

Photo courtesy of Tenzin Werner

Junior Tenzin Werner participated in protests in support of Uyghurs this past fall, condemning China’s actions and displaying solidarity by the Tibetan community.

After over six million Jews were systematically slaughtered in Adolf Hitler’s White nationalist-fueled quest for worldwide domination, the whole world vowed “never again.” The same words were uttered when the Tutsis were being hacked to death in Rwanda and Cambodians were being gunned down in fields by the Khmer Rouge. Despite this, the Beijing Winter Olympics have still gone through as planned. Athletes from nations across the world, including the United States, traveled to, competed in, and made money off of a competition in a country profiting off of, participating in, and committing modern day genocide. Did the world’s promise of “never again” after the Holocaust truly mean less than a petty sports competition? 

“Honestly, it’s disgusting, but the worst part is the people who still deny what’s happening even with evidence,” said sophomore Mehek Purnota. “A lot of Islamophobia is [the] cause of misinterpretation which a lot of people are using as valid excuses [to justify China’s actions].” 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki accurately described China’s actions as “genocide and crimes against humanity.” Concentration camps in China’s Xinjiang region are currently forcibly detaining over one million Uyghur Muslims, an ethnic minority native to Central  Asia. Forced sterilization, contraception, abortion, religious suppression, CCP (Chinese Communist Party) indoctrination, and severe violence are ongoing practices within the camps, as well as the destruction of mosques and separation of children from their parents, as per Chinese government policy. 

“As a Muslim, it makes me feel unheard that people don’t seem to take our issues seriously,” said sophomore Zainab Chohan.   

While the United States engaged in a “diplomatic boycott” of this Winter’s Olympic Games, along with Canada, Australia, and Great Britain, this simply wasn’t enough. By definition, a boycott is a complete withdrawal from a certain event or organization as a form of protest or punishment. A “diplomatic” boycott, on the other hand, is just that: diplomatic. In what can be viewed as putting up a tactical front by nations participating in the boycott, athletes continued to compete in the games as planned while country officials who would have attended the games under normal circumstances stayed home.  

“I don’t think [it was] enough,” said Chohan. “Personally, I think the U.S should have completely withdrawn.” 

Companies such as General Motors, H&M, Nike, and dozens of others have been linked through supply chains to forced labor happening inside of the camps. Besides being connected via their suppliers, many companies also do business within the region, with Tesla most recently coming under criticism for opening a showroom in Xingjiang. 

“The Winter Olympics are a [quadrennial] thing, rather than diplomatic boycotts we should focus on markets and companies that China gains from,” said Purnota. 

Amidst arguments over whether a diplomatic or full boycott was necessary, the fact that the games even occurred in the first place was a breach of democratic values remains stagnant. 

“The situation is very similar to the Holocaust and has [been] taken very lightly by everyone,” said Chohan. “Both situations are genocides and were awful things to have happened but the one thing going on right is getting no attention and isn’t being spoken about.”

Golden State Warriors co-owner Chamath Palihapitiya summed up, albeit boorishly, this sentiment on his podcast: “nobody cares.” Although not without heavy backlash, his words carry a hard truth that was instantly looked over by the media. Nobody does care. At least not enough to skip Beijing.