China Hosting Winter Olympics Compared to Appeasing Hitler by Lawmaker

A former leader of the U.K.'s ruling Conservative party has called for a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, saying allowing it to go ahead amid accusations of a genocide against Uyghur Muslims was akin to "appeasing Hitler."

Calls for the boycott from U.K. lawmakers began earlier this month, when a British parliamentary committee issued a report calling for the boycott to pressure China to "end its persecution" of the minority Muslim group.

Iain Duncan Smith told the House of Commons on Thursday: "We have forgotten what happened when we appeased another ghastly dictatorship.

"Sixty million people died as a result of our failure when we appeased them and we are on the same course today.

"And this debate today about boycotting these Olympics is not just a token.

"We know that China is sensitive when it gets global criticism, when people shine the torch on what goes on behind it. We know they react.

"Why do we know that? Because they sanction people like myself and many of my colleagues in this chamber and the European Parliament."

Conservative lawmaker Tim Loughton, who tabled the motion, said the U.K. would follow in the steps of the U.S. if it agreed to a diplomatic boycott.

Loughton—who is one of nine individuals currently subject to Chinese sanctions himself for speaking out about the country's policies in Xinjiang—also warned past attempts to influence China had failed.

He said: "The awarding of the 2008 Olympics to Beijing was accompanied by the International Olympics Committee promising that the Games would act as a catalyst for human rights reform in China.

"Well, a widely acknowledged genocide in Xinjiang later, thousands of Tibetans arrested, imprisoned, displaced, tortured and killed later, the snuffing out of free speech and political freedoms in Hong Kong, and the trashing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and imposition of their national security law later, that went well, didn't it?"

Politicians across party lines agreed to the boycott, with Labour MP Afzal Khan for Manchester Gorton saying: "Despite condemnation from all sides of the house, including the government, there is still a gaping chasm between rhetoric and action.

"We cannot on the one hand recognize genocide and on the other send dignitaries and diplomats to the Beijing Olympics."

Foreign Office minister Nigel Adams noted that no decisions have yet been made about UK government attendance at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, but "robust action" had already been taken against China, including sanctions and measures to ensure British companies and their supply chains were not "complicit" in Chinese government actions in Xinjiang.

Newsweek has contacted the Chinese embassy in the U.K. for comment.

The U.S. government has made similar calls to boycott the games. In a Congressional hearing on May 18, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for one, and urged lawmakers to "not honor the Chinese government by having heads of state go to China to show their support for their athletes. When they come home, let's show them even more [...] respect, adulation."

On April 22, Britain's parliament recognized China's policies in Xinjiang as crimes against humanity and genocide. The motion came a month after U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced sanctions against four Chinese officials and one entity deemed responsible for the rights violations against Uyghurs.

Beijing Olympics
A woman adjusts her face mask as she walks by a statue featuring the Winter Olympics figure skating on display at the Shougang Park in Beijing, Sunday, May 2, 2021. A British lawmaker has said that the UK government should boycott the games in response to China's alleged treatment of the Uyghur Muslims. Andy Wong/AP Photo