There are many reasons to boycott China, not least of which is its treatment of the Uyghurs; an unofficial U.K. tribunal this week said Chinese President Xi Jinping is responsible for “genocide, crimes against humanity and torture” of minorities in Xinjiang.
Add to the list the mysterious and alarming case of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, who disappeared for two weeks after publicly accusing Zhang Gaoli, a member of China’s ruling committee, of sexual assault. Within 20 minutes of her post on China’s equivalent of Twitter, government censors scrambled to scrub any mention of it from the Internet, as the New York Times reported Friday. China’s efforts to deny anything was amiss by posting photos and videos of Peng were clumsy and ineffective and quickly ridiculed by the twitterverse.
Earlier this month, the Women’s Tennis Association took the brave step of suspending all tournaments in China in protest of her obvious detention and censoring.
“While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation,” Steve Simon, chief executive of the Women’s Tennis Association, said in a statement as reported by the New York Times. “If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded — equality for women — would suffer an immense setback. I will not and cannot let that happen to the WTA and its players.”
So far, the WTA is the only major sports organization to announce a boycott of China, but the organizers of Gay Games 11, scheduled for 2023 in Hong Kong, should be next.
Gay Games organizers excitedly announced a new logo for the 2023 Games two weeks ago, adding the colors of the Progress Pride flag to recognize communities of color. But so far those same organizers are silent on the plight of Peng, a woman of color herself, and a fellow athlete who was targeted by China for making an accusation of assault.
When asked by the Blade if the Federation of Gay Games would consider a boycott of China, it issued a cowardly statement that ignored the central question of Peng’s plight and well being.
“The Federation of Gay Games continues to monitor the situation in Hong Kong regarding COVID-19, the National Security Law and all other aspects that affect the safety and security of our event,” Sean Fitzgerald, co-president of the Federation of Gay Games, told the Blade in a statement. “We are committed to hosting Gay Games 11 in Hong Kong in November 2023.”
The Federation of Gay Games’s claims of supporting people of color and athletes of color ring hollow when its leaders won’t even mention Peng’s name in response to a direct question about her plight.
The Federation should reconsider its posture, denounce China’s treatment and censorship of Peng, and move Gay Games 11 to another locale in protest.
Boycotts are divisive tactics and one Hong Kong LGBTQ activist this week told the Blade she doesn’t support the idea. “In Hong Kong, the team behind Gay Games has really worked tirelessly to bring it to Hong Kong and it will be a very good opportunity to showcase diversity and people working together and the human spirit at its best,” Gigi Chao told the Blade.
But what does it say about the queer community if we fail to take a stand even after the WTA has acted so boldly and decisively in its own boycott? The Biden administration on Monday announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics that are slated to take place in Beijing in February. A Gay Games boycott would be consistent with our own government’s efforts to hold China accountable for Peng, the Uyghurs, and other human rights abuses.
The Federation of Gay Games has an opportunity to stand in solidarity with the WTA and Peng and send a powerful message that the LGBTQ community will not reward a regime that engages in overt censorship while covering up allegations of sexual assault by sending hundreds of athletes and millions of dollars to Hong Kong in 2023.