There is a lively discussion at File 770 about a range of proposed bids to host Worldcons in the next few years. http://file770.com/taking-inventory-of-future-worldcon-bids-4
The issue of bids from fans in the USA, Saudi Arabia, Israel and China each raise questions about the national policies of the governments of each of these countries in terms of human rights abuses and laws that might impact visitors. I made a couple of comments that I’m re-working here into a post because I think there is a distinction worth making.
There are two things to consider:
1. policies national governments place on their population that don’t directly affect visitors
2. policies national governments have that directly impact visitors and people considering visiting
I don’t think 1 is a lesser issue but it makes sense that 1 is left to Worldcon members decide by voting.
Point 2 though are issues that (potentially) change with Worldcon members can actually attend the Worldcon. It directly shapes what the Worldcon will be.
For example, the Saudi Arabian government has denied entry to Israeli citizens and people with evidence of having visited Israel. The US government implemented some sweeping restrictions on citizens of some nations visiting.
I’m not saying it is feasible to come up with rules disallowing bids on the second criterion. However, “who can attend a Worldcon” is a legitimate structural issue around which it does make sense to have minimum standards.
I’d added there is a third issue where discussion around 1 can become and issue around 2. Both the Israeli and Chinese government have passed laws that make some international public criticism punishable. Outside of those countries such laws are toothless but they still can have a chilling effect on speech.
I think it is reasonable for people to say they aren’t going to vote for a bid because they have strong objections to human rights abuses by the relevant national government. Likewise, there is a reasonable counter-argument that people make that international travel and trade can be an important part of a nation reforming. However, if you can’t safely have that discussion then there is a problem straight away. Maybe engaging with country X is part of the process of improving the X government’s approach to human rights? It is a legitimate position and one that gets different answers if we substitute different countries (Cuba say or UAE or Myanmar etc). However if country X has laws criminalising such discussion then you can’t even have that discussion. That renders the question a moot point.
Which takes me back to the question, can a WSFS member visit said country (i.e. will they be let in) and can they visit without being at risk of arrest just for being who they are? The question of engagement with a country becomes irrelevant if a member is already effectively banned.
Put another way my point 1. is a question about a member deciding whether to boycott a country or not (so to speak – not necessarily a formal boycott) but point 2. is about whether the national government of said country is already boycotting the member! Laws criminalising homosexuality (for example) or laws that propose penalties against international criticism of a country are all major red flags.