As China prepares to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, Beijing recently made a stunning announcement. Any athlete speaking out “against Chinese laws and regulations” will be subject to “punishment.” Beijing claims it’s an “innocent party,” but the threat to athletes is just the latest act by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)—and proves it has much to hide. Unfortunately, some of America’s largest and most well-known companies seem content to help fund Beijing’s repressive, authoritarian regime.
Since 2017, the CCP has “disappeared” more than a million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities into a vast network of “reeducation camps” in western China. It’s estimated that at least 80,000 of them have subsequently been transferred to forced labor in factories throughout China.
Essentially, China is using the Uyghurs as slave labor, including for well-known global brands such as Apple, BMW, Gap, Nike, Sony, and Volkswagen.
But there’s also Beijing’s arrest and torture of political prisoners in Tibet, and crackdowns on democratic protesters in Hong Kong. Add to that brutal labor conditions throughout China—including the infamous Foxconn factory that required workers to sign a no-suicide pledge—and it’s clear that Beijing cares little about human rights.
The question is why the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ever agreed to allow China to host an international competition. The Olympics have long been seen as a crowning achievement—a host country’s proud moment in the spotlight. The IOC’s decision has conferred legitimacy on arguably the world’s single greatest violator of human rights.
There have been calls to boycott Beijing’s “genocide games.” And the United States, UK, and Australia have already announced a diplomatic boycott that precludes government officials from attending. Additionally, U.S. athletes have been warned about Beijing’s heavy surveillance state.
But there’s still another troubling issue: Why are some of America’s favorite companies happily paying millions to fund Beijing?
Key sponsors for the Beijing games include Airbnb, Coca-Cola, Intel, Visa, and Procter & Gamble. Each company has committed roughly $100 million to help stage the games. Doing so offers them a massive, global advertising opportunity. But it also means that, when the IOC parcels out billions of dollars, it gives plenty to the host country.
It’s assumed that Beijing will use this IOC funding to help pay for stadiums, equipment, and sporting facilities. But in the murky world of athletic financing, no one really knows what Beijing is doing. As a result, Coca-Cola, Visa, and others are essentially handing many millions of dollars to China’s repressive regime—with no questions asked.
These companies are helping to whitewash Beijing’s atrocities. This is unacceptable. And as Americans learn more about China, they may find that their retirement funds and investments are indirectly supporting the very companies now helping to prop up Beijing’s Olympic spectacle.
It may be too late to move the games from China. But popular American brands shouldn’t support China’s human rights violations. And U.S. consumers and investors should reject companies that cozy up to China’s ugly regime.
Robby Smith is National Security Advisor at the Coalition for a Prosperous America.