Foreign Policy Digital

Beijing’s Olympics Paved the Way for Xinjiang’s Camps

The 2008 games were supposed to help liberalize China. Instead the party learned it could get away with anything.

As the Year of the Pig begins, in Beijing and the mountainous Yanqing district just 50 miles from the capital, construction is well underway for the 2022 Winter Olympics, now just three years away. Meanwhile, at the other end of the country, another form of construction is going on. Beijing’s internment camps for Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are believed to hold around a million inmates. As China’s oppression of minorities and civil society grows, so should questions about whether the Olympics should be hosted by Beijing at all—especially as Beijing’s 2008 Summer Olympics marked a turning point in renewed oppression.

Historically, the Olympics have always turned a blind eye to atrocity, most infamously with the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. The Dachau concentration camp was opened in 1933, and for the United States and other nations to boycott the games. Despite this, in the end, a record number of nations—including the United States­—attended.

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