NBC receives praise for calling out human rights abuses during Beijing opening ceremony

American broadcaster NBC has been widely praised for discussing China’s human rights abuses during its coverage of the Beijing 2022 opening ceremony.

Viewers were told on Friday that despite China welcoming the world’s athletes to Beijing for the two week sporting event, the country has been accused by western governments of committing a genocide against its minority Muslim population.

“Western governments, the White House, human rights group allege that the Chinese government is engaged in a systematic repression of Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang,” said Andy Browne, one of two China experts hired by NBC.

“They allege that this is a massive program of social engineering aimed at suppressing Muslim Uyghur culture, language, tradition, identity,” said Mr Browne of the Muslim population in the country’s northwest Xinjiang province.

An international tribunal ruled in December that China and its ruling Communit Party has been conducting forced control and sterilisation of Uyghurs that amounted to a genocide.

Both the US and UK governments have come to similar conclusions, in addition to human rights campaigners.

General view of the Olympic cauldron and fireworks during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski (REUTERS)

NBC’s broadcast was hailed by viewers during the opening ceremony on Friday, which was boycotted by diplomats from the UK and US, for being brave.

“NBC comes right out in the first 10 minutes of the Opening Ceremonies talking heads intro and discusses Putin-Xi, Xinjiang genocide, diplomatic boycotts and contested geopolitics,” tweeted Michael David Smith, an American sports journalist. “It’s not a deep conversation, but you can’t say they’re just avoiding the tough stuff entirely”.

“I’m impressed how much NBC‘s coverage has mentioned the genocide of Uyghurs in Xinjiang,” argued Tara Francis Chan, of The Appeal. “But giving China’s defences the same amount of space is a horrific false equivalence”.

Olympics viewer Derek Shark meanwhile wrote: “NBC uses the moment in which the Chinese flag is passed between representatives of China’s many ethnic groups to talk about the situation in Xinjiang, which many have labeled a genocide of Uyghur Muslims.”

A prerecorded video segment in NBC’s broadcast also detailed “other concerns that have also contributed to” tensions between the US and China,” including an end to freedom of expression and democracy in Hong Kong.

NBC paid $7.65bn (£5.66bn) for broadcasting rights for the Olympics through to 2032 eight years ago, and owns the world’s biggest contract for Olympic broadcasting rights.

On Tuesday, Republican congressman Marco Rubio told Fox News he was opposed to NBC, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and Beijing 2022’s organisers from profiting from genocide.

“The core of this is very simple and that is—if we want—we shouldn’t allow people to monetise an Olympics being hosted by a genocidal, communist government that—by the way—is also trying to dismantle the US’s place in the world— targeting our industries, our jobs, supply chains all across the board.”

China’s ruling Communist Party has rebuffed all claims of genocide and has accused the US of “politicising” the games, which it holds 14 years after the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing.