Pass the Bic . . .
On Wednesday, Chinese Communist Party Secretary Cai Qi received the Olympic torch at a brief and closely guarded airport ceremony for the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. The Olympic flame will be kept on public display at Beijing Olympic Tower. When the Games kick off on February 4, it will be China’s second time hosting the Olympics, the first being in summer 2008. That event did not yield a new era of more open political and social life in China that many had hoped for.
Protests and calls for boycotts . . .
The Olympic torch-lighting ceremony in Greece on Monday was disrupted by protesters and calls for a boycott of the Games. Protesters cited reports of human rights violations against China’s Uyghur and other Muslim minority populations in the Xinjiang region, as well as Tibetans. While the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has generally avoided discussing China’s human rights record, on Monday, IOC president Thomas Bach stated that the Games must be “respected as politically neutral ground.”
Strict lockdown approach loosening elsewhere in Asia . . .
Also on the mind of Chinese officials is the spate of locally transmitted COVID-19 cases in a handful of cities across the country. China’s zero-tolerance policy on COVID-19 contrasts with other jurisdictions in Asia. In Japan, where lockdowns have never been strictly enforced, cases have dropped significantlysince the Tokyo Summer Olympics. Nearly 70 per cent of Japan’s population is now fully vaccinated after a slow initial rollout. In South Korea, the government announced plans on Friday to move into a ‘living with COVID’ approach starting in November, once 80 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated. Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia have announced similar plans, and tourist destinations in Vietnam and Indonesia are also reopening to stem economic losses. On Wednesday, the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees announced a vaccine mandate for Canadians competing in Beijing. Analysts will be watching whether Beijing adopts any COVID-19 policy changes as large numbers of athletes and travellers begin to pour into the country ahead of the Games.