Democrats and Republicans have called for diplomatic boycotts or for the 2022 Winter Games to be relocated over reported human rights violations, which China denies

By Sean Neumann
June 08, 2021 05:06 PM
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2022 Olympics
2022 Beijing Olympics
| Credit: Du Jianpo/VCG via Getty

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers this week called on the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Olympics from Beijing, ramping up American political pressure on the forthcoming Winter Games.

Human rights advocates, activists and politicians from across the world have increasingly criticized the IOC for holding the games in China amid reports of human rights violations - including the detention and torture of the Uyghurs, an ethnic minority group, and anti-democracy crackdowns in Hong Kong.

"In the face of genocide, Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China are looking to the world for support," Rep. Gregory Meeks said in a statement Monday, after Democrats and Republicans from the congressional House Foreign Affairs Committee introduced a resolution urging the IOC to move the games "unless the Chinese government ends its ongoing crimes against the Uyghur people."

In February, the BBC reported that independent estimates show more than 1 million men and women - mostly of the predominantly Muslim and indigenous Uyghurs population - are being held in Chinese "re-education" camps, where harrowing stories of rape and violence have emerged.

"By turning a blind eye to the [People's Republic of China's] gross human rights violations in Xinjiang, the IOC is betraying its own charter and legitimizing the PRC's actions at a time when the international community should be lock-step in condemnation," Meeks, 69, said.

GOP Rep. Michael McCaul called the dilemma "the moral test of our time."

"By granting the CCP an opportunity to cover up its atrocities and improve its image on the global stage, the IOC is violating its own principles and tarnishing its own brand," McCaul, 59, said.

The IOC has said it wishes to remain politically "neutral," and the Chinese government denies accusations that it is committing human rights violations, according to an Associated Press report.

Rep. Gregory Meeks
Rep. Gregory Meeks
| Credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Rep. Michael McCaul
Rep. Michael McCaul
| Credit: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty

The Winter Games are set to open on Feb. 4, 2022, while governments around the world have debated a range of responses such as full-scale or diplomatic boycotts, in which athletes would still compete but heads of state wouldn't attend.

In March, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that "China uses coercion and aggression to systematically erode autonomy in Hong Kong, undercut democracy in Taiwan, abuse human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, and assert maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law."

Blinkin, 59, said the U.S. "will push back if necessary when China uses coercion or aggression to get its way."

However, the White House has remained relatively neutral on calls for a boycott. 

Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in April that President Joe Biden's administration is "not discussing any joint boycott with allies and partners."

But leaders from both the Republican and Democratic parties have pushed forward with calls to diplomatically boycott the 2022 Games without restricting athletes from participating.

"We're not gonna punish our athletes who've prepared all their lives for this moment," Sen. Mitt Romney said late last month, according to Newsweek. "But we're going to make sure we make it very clear we do not support the Beijing Olympics."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that the U.S. "cannot proceed as if nothing is wrong about the Olympics going to China," according to CNBC.

"If we don't speak out against human rights violations in China for commercial reasons, we lose all moral authority to speak out for human rights anywhere," she said.