Your Wednesday Briefing: Olympics officials are tight-lipped on China’s abuses

We’re covering the International Olympic Committee’s reluctance to challenge Beijing and a lockdown of the unvaccinated in the Philippines.

Official Olympic merchandise at a store in Beijing.Credit…Visual China Group, via Getty Images

Olympics officials tread lightly on China

With just one month before the start of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, concerns about China’s human rights record loom over the Games.

While activists and some world leaders have raised questions about China’s suppression of civil liberties in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet, the International Olympic Committee has remained tight-lipped. Instead, the I.O.C. has consistently deflected calls to exert more pressure on China — a lucrative market and an important financial and organizational partner for the Olympics.

For months, rights activists have asked the Olympic committee to ensure that Beijing 2022 merchandise had not been made under duress by Uyghurs in Xinjiang. So far, the I.O.C. has been reluctant to do so, according to correspondence between the I.O.C. and a rights group, which was reviewed by The Times.

Context: In years past, the I.O.C. had been willing to engage with human rights concerns elsewhere, including prodding the Russian government to investigate claims of unpaid wages in 2014. The committee defended its approach in China, arguing that sports are a tool to building a better world.

Related: Tesla came under fire from political leaders and human rights groups after announcing it would open a dealership in the Xinjiang region.

Classes have been suspended in Manila and the surrounding areas.Credit…Rolex Dela Pena/EPA, via Shutterstock

A lockdown for the unvaccinated in the Philippines

The Philippines will bar all unvaccinated residents from leaving their homes, except for essential reasons, in Manila and the surrounding areas. The lockdown is in response to a post-holiday spike in Covid-19 cases.

The lockdown is aimed at both lessening the country’s caseload and encouraging vaccinations. Health officials have suggested that vaccine complacency was behind the latest rise in infections.

“Despite the availability of vaccines, there is a number of individuals who adamantly opt not to be vaccinated,” the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority said in a statement.

What’s next: Officials say they hope to fully inoculate 77 million Filipinos out of a population of 110 million by May. As of early December, only 40 million have had at least two doses.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • Novak Djokovic, the tennis world’s most prominent vaccination skeptic, was granted a medical exemption to play in the Australian Open this month.

  • Hong Kong residents must have at least one vaccine shot to enter restaurants beginning late next month, the city’s chief executive said.

  • The Spanish police are investigating major cases of theft or trafficking of Covid test kits.

Xiomara Castro, who won the election in Honduras in November.Credit…Daniele Volpe for The New York Times

Leftists are on a winning streak in Latin America

First in Mexico, then in Bolivia, Peru, Honduras and Chile — and perhaps soon in Colombia and Brazil — leftist politicians have won presidencies, often defeating right-wing incumbents. This year, left and center-left leaders are expected to be in power in the six largest economies in the region.

The trend has not extended to El Salvador, Uruguay and Ecuador. But overall, Evan Ellis, a professor of Latin American studies, said that in his memory there had never been a Latin America “as dominated by a combination of leftists and anti-U.S. populist leaders.”

Yet these new leaders may find it hard to deliver on change. Unlike in the early 2000s, when leftists won critical presidencies in Latin America, the new officeholders are saddled by debt, lean budgets, scant access to credit and, in many cases, tough opposition.

Global effect: The left’s gains could buoy China and undermine the U.S. as they compete for regional influence, analysts say. The change could also make it more difficult for the Americans to continue isolating leftist regimes in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba.

Next test: In Colombia, where a presidential election is set for May, Gustavo Petro, a leftist former mayor of Bogotá who once belonged to an urban guerrilla group, is leading in the polls.


Asia Pacific

Police officers stood guard outside the Evergrande International Center in Guangzhou, China on Tuesday.Credit…David Kirton/Reuters
  • China Evergrande, the world’s most indebted real estate developer, faced more protests from employees and home buyers, who are demanding their money back.

  • Toyota, the Japanese carmaker, sold more cars and trucks in the U.S. last year than any American manufacturer, a first for a foreign automaker.

World News

Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, in San Jose, Calif. on Monday.Credit…Peter Dasilva/EPA, via Shutterstock
  • Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the blood-testing start-up Theranos, was found guilty of four charges of fraud in a U.S. court.

  • As Queen Elizabeth II prepares to mark 70 years on the throne next month, a sexual abuse case involving her son, Prince Andrew, could mean more turmoil for the royal family.

  • Prosecutors charged a man with arson, theft, housebreaking and possession of explosives in connection with a large fire that gutted South Africa’s Parliament buildings.

  • OPEC and Russia agreed to increase oil output as concerns grew about lagging production.

  • The U.S. arrested a Colombian man accused of participating in the murder of Haiti’s president, making him the first person to face U.S. prosecution in relation to the crime.

  • More than 600,000 people have signed an online petition calling for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s knighthood to be rescinded.

  • Ireland imposed a minimum price on alcoholic beverages in an effort to curb binge drinking.

  • American Girl has created a Chinese American doll to be its 2022 “Girl of the Year” to try to teach children to stand against racism.

A Morning Read

Dozens of residents of the Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside armed groups in the early 2010s.Credit…Virginie Nguyen for The New York Times

The Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels was the breeding ground for a cell of terrorists that killed 162 people in Paris and Brussels in 2015 and 2016. Six years later, residents are trying to reinvent the community as a trial examines what went wrong in Molenbeek.


Long Island iced tea.Credit…Linda Xiao for The New York Times

What Americans will eat

New Year, new you, new … food trends?

The Times’s Kim Severson rounded up forecasters’ predictions about what Americans will eat and drink in 2022. They’re expecting a new interest in mushrooms, a rethinking of chicken and coffee and a resurgence of 1980s cocktails.

As far as the flavor of the year goes, look out for hibiscus, “which is adding its crimson hue and tart, earthy flavor to everything from cocktails and sodas to crudos and yogurt,” Kim writes.

You may even start hearing entirely new words to describe tastes, like “swicy” and “swalty.” Check it all out here.


What to Cook

Credit…Johnny Miller for The New York Times

Coated in panko and sesame seeds, this tofu takes on a splendid crunchiness that contrasts with sautéed spinach.

What to Read

“Dante: A Life” is an impressively researched new portrait by the Italian novelist and historian Alessandro Barbero.

What to Watch

“Three Minutes: A Lengthening,” a documentary based on a home movie, captures Jewish life in a Polish town before the Nazis arrived.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: largest animal ever to exist on earth (five letters).

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Matthew

P.S. Kathleen Hennessey, the regional politics editor for The Associated Press, is joining The Times as deputy politics editor for enterprise.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about flawed prenatal testing.

You can reach Matthew and the team at [email protected].

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