Mitt Romney calls for ‘economic and diplomatic’ boycott of Beijing Olympics

Mitt Romney calls for ‘economic and diplomatic’ boycott of Beijing Olympics

Martin Pengelly

·3 min read

The US should boycott the Beijing Winter Olympic Games next year, Mitt Romney said on Monday – but not by keeping its skiers, curlers and bobsledders at home.

Related: Beijing 2022: 180 human rights groups call for Winter Olympics boycott

In a New York Times column, the Utah senator said Washington should implement “an economic and diplomatic boycott” of the quadrennial winter sports jamboree.

Such a move, he said, would “demonstrate our repudiation of China’s abuses in a way that will hurt the Chinese Communist party rather than our American athletes: reduce China’s revenues, shut down their propaganda and expose their abuses”.

Romney went on to list such abuses. China, he wrote, had “reneged on its agreement to allow Hong Kong self rule; it has brutally suppressed peaceful demonstrators and incarcerated respected journalists”.

“It is exacting genocide against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities; Uighur women are forcefully sterilized or impregnated by Han Chinese men. Adults, ripped from their families, are sentenced into forced labor and concentration camps. Among ethnic Chinese, access to uncensored broadcast news and social media is prohibited. Citizens are surveyed, spied upon and penalized for attending religious services or expressing dissent.”

Romney is a former venture capitalist and Massachusetts governor who famously took charge of preparations for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Debate has raged ever since over the extent to which he helped to “save” an operation dogged by financial and management scandals.

Romney won the Republican nomination for president in 2012, a race he lost after Barack Obama pulled away in the home straight. The Republican’s Secret Service codename was the appropriately the Olympic-sounding “Javelin” and he regularly referred to his success in Salt Lake City.

Beijing last hosted the summer Olympics in 2004. It will be the first city to host the winter games too, but it seems sure to face some sort of boycott.

Groups representing Uighurs, Tibetans, Hong Kong and campaigners for democracy in China are pushing for athletes or diplomatic boycotts. Having failed to persuade the International Olympic Committee to move the games out of China, activists are targeting national committees, athletes and sponsors.

The US last mounted a boycott in 1980, when American athletes stayed away from the summer games in Moscow in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. China also stayed away then.

But in Romney’s view now, “prohibiting our athletes from competing in China [in 2022] is the easy, but wrong, answer”.

“… The right answer is an economic and diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics. American spectators – other than families of our athletes and coaches – should stay at home, preventing us from contributing to the enormous revenues the Chinese Communist party will raise from hotels, meals and tickets. American corporations that routinely send large groups of their customers and associates to the games should send them to US venues instead.

“Rather than send the traditional delegation of diplomats and White House officials to Beijing, the president should invite Chinese dissidents, religious leaders and ethnic minorities to represent us.”

Romney also called on NBC, which broadcasts the Olympics in the US, to “refrain from showing any jingoistic elements of the opening and closing ceremonies and instead broadcast documented reports of China’s abuses”.

In his own column on Monday, for Fox News, the Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz said US athletes “should go to Beijing next year proudly, bring home medal after medal, and show the world what it means to compete on behalf of a free society”.