China human rights record under fire at burner phone Winter Olympics

CEOs and investors: Do you want your brands to be associated with a country that engages in genocide?

Foreign athletes, coaches and journalists are using burner phones and laptops at the Beijing Winter Olympics to protect themselves from potential malicious cyber activities, which is being perpetuated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).  

Critics have charged that behind the facade of the pomp and grandeur of the Olympics, taking place between February 4 to 20, hides a totalitarian regime which has conducted acts of genocide against the Uyghur and other Muslims and has repressed both minority groups and Chinese people alike.  

However, the International Olympic Committee, games broadcaster NBC and corporate sponsors have stayed silent on China’s human rights abuses.  They, along with other global brands who have pandered to the CCP in order to gain access to China’s market, have emboldened the regime’s total disregard for human rights and other universal values.  

It is hypocrisy that these CCP apologists who thrive and prosper in democratic countries, who enjoy freedom of speech and have their businesses protected under the rule of law, are now kowtowing to a totalitarian regime in the hope of making money.  A totalitarian regime who does not respect the concept of a market economy, does not respect the right to private property, does not protect the rights of private enterprise, and where the judiciary is subordinate to the government, which in turn is subordinate to the CCP.

Given the significant amount of international condemnation, the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022 will be remembered as the one where the host government is inextricably linked to human rights abuses in violation of international law, including persecution against Tibetans, Mongolians, ethnic groups, Hong Kong people, and religious practitioners from the Falun Gong, among others. 

Human Rights Watch on January 27 stated that the Chinese authorities “have eliminated independent civil society by persecuting human rights activists, feminists, lawyers, journalists, and others. The government has eviscerated a once-vibrant civil society in Hong Kong, expanded tech-enabled surveillance to significantly curtail the rights to expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and allowed the use of forced labor, in violation of international law.”

Human Rights Watch also stated that Chinese authorities “continue to threaten members of diaspora communities, public figures, and companies beyond China’s borders through a sophisticated campaign of transnational repression.”

The CCP apologists are not willing to see China for what it is, but rather for what they want it to be.  It is high time for them to wake up to the true nature of the totalitarian regime.

A threat to the global economy

Besides being adept at using technology for blanket surveillance, censorship and repression in committing human rights abuses, there are also concerns about rampant Chinese economic espionage and intellectual property theft of advance technology from foreign companies.  

A normal country’s economy is built upon free competition, innovation, R&D and entrepreneurship, but China prefers to steal proprietary information and technology and this has allowed the CCP to leapfrog decades of hard work and billions of dollars in investment.

According to the U.S. FBI director, Chris Wray, at a speech given on January 31, “The Chinese government steals staggering volumes of information and causes deep, job-destroying damage across a wide range of industries—so much so that, as you heard, we’re constantly opening new cases to counter their intelligence operations, about every 12 hours or so.”  

In one prominent example, Wray said that a group of Chinese Ministry of State Security-associated criminal hackers stole terabytes of data from hundreds of companies. Besides stealing on a massive scale, one terabyte is around 70 million pages of data, the hackers also caused indiscriminate damage to get what they want, like in the recent Microsoft Exchange hack, which compromised the networks of 10,000 American companies in a single campaign alone.

The harm from China’s economic espionage is not just felt by the companies but by workers too.  For example, in 2018, a Chinese government-owned corporation called Sinovel was convicted for stealing the proprietary source code for controlling wind turbines from American Superconductor, a U.S. company in Massachusetts, causing its value to fall from US$1.6 billion to $200 million.  In the process, 600 employees lost their jobs and with it their livelihoods to provide for their families.

Winter is coming

Theft is a zero-sum game, where one side’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss, therefore the net change in wealth or benefit is zero.  China is winning at the expense of the rest of the world.  China, which has the world’s second largest economy and which aspires to be a global superpower, but through its malevolent actions, refuses to act responsibly in line with its aspiration.  

What this shows is that the CCP is a mafia organization, which wants absolute power and demands total subservient, but does not abide by the rules of the international order.

The general public and consumers will not forget the genocide the CCP has committed. No amount of words and propaganda can whitewash the CCP’s malevolent actions. As the world awakes to the atrocities the CCP has done, CEOs and investors cannot pretend that it is business as usual.

And if they still stand on the wrong side of history and refuses to condemn the CCP, then they, their companies and their brands will have to suffer the consequences of associating and kowtowing to a regime that is committing genocide and other crimes against humanity.

Image credit: kovop58 / Shutterstock.com

Lee Kok Leong

Lee Kok Leong

Kok Leong, executive editor, has overall editorial responsibility for the direction and focus of Maritime Fairtrade. He has two decades of working experiences, including holding senior regional roles in business-to-business (B2B) print and online publications. He enjoys his work as a journalist, and regards it as a calling.

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