Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, has become America’s top politician calling for a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games over China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Pelosi urged the U.S. and other countries not to send high-level delegations, in a request to increase pressure on the Chinese government to persecute the Uyghurs, which the Biden administration called “genocide”.
“We can’t go on that if there’s nothing wrong with the Olympics going to China,” Pelosi said at a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing in the House of Representatives. “Over the past three decades it has become clear that we cannot continue to give China a blank check in the hope that their behavior will only change.”
The Biden administration has held introductory talks with allies, including the UK and Australia, on a diplomatic boycott, but officials say no decision has been made about the games. Last week the state department said the Chinese government had made Xinjiang a “Prison open to the air” and that the Biden administration is examining its options to make sure it doesn’t help China use the games to get a propaganda victory.
Beijing has dismissed widespread claims that more than 1m Muslim Uyghurs and other minorities have been detained in detention camps across the northwestern region that in some cases have been used for forced labor.
A diplomatic boycott will join governments refusing to send officials or heads of state to the Olympics an option used in the US during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi to protest Russia’s anti-gay law.
“We can’t honor the Chinese government by going to China with the heads of state,” Pelosi said.
Many Republican lawmakers have proposed a diplomatic boycott but Pelosi, a longtime critic of China on its human rights record, is the oldest member of Congress to push for the result.
“As Speaker of the House and someone who has worked in China and human rights issues for decades, this is very important,” said Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch.
“With the Chinese government doubling if not doubling crimes against humanity along with the stubbornness and turmoil of the International Olympic Committee, no one should be surprised by this outcome.”
Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican co-chairman of the commission and wants the games away from China, said he would call on U.S. companies involved in sponsoring the 2022 Olympics to testify in congress.
“We will ask all causes from the U.S., especially Coca-Cola, to testify,” Smith told the Financial Times, adding that he would also like to hear from Mars, the only U.S. company with sponsorship contract the Beijing Olympic organizing committee, as opposed to the IOC.
“They may lose some money but they need to know that money from a dictatorship that kills people is not made into profit.”
The FT recently contacted more than two dozen companies with Olympic sponsorship rights but most PERPETUAL to comment.
A spokesman for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee had no comment on Tuesday. But it has been said in the past that it is against boycotts. The U.S. last staged a full-scale boycott move, in which it withdrew the delegation of athletes, at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.