By Juliegrace Brufke
January 28, 2022
Reps. Tom Suozzi (D-NY) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) on Friday called for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to take a stand against China’s human-rights abuses of Uyghur Muslims ahead of the Winter Games in Beijing next week.
In a letter sent to IOC President Thomas Bach, Suozzi and Smith said the Olympics could provide an opportunity to shine a light on the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) treatment of Uyghurs and other minority groups in Xinjiang.
The lawmakers said “there is still time” for the IOC to clarify its position on the atrocities.
They asserted that the games, which begin next Friday, shouldn’t be used as a diversion from the abuses — urging the IOC to make it clear that it does not condone the host country’s actions.
Documented instances of “forced labor, mass surveillance, forced assimilation, mass detention, sexual violence, forced sterilization, forced abortions, false imprisonment, and the suppression of freedom of speech, the press, and religion” should not be whitewashed on the world stage, the lawmakers stressed.
The decision to hold the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing over Almaty, the former Kazakhstan capital, has drawn outrage from activists. Some US lawmakers called for the games to be moved, or for President Biden to instate a boycott.
“In recent months, the international community has sounded the alarm about the atrocities being committed by the CCP and taken action,” the letter states.
“The US, European Union, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada have condemned China’s human-rights violations, and some have taken coordinated action, including sanctions.”
The US is one of 10 countries taking part in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Games, along with the UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, Denmark, Belgium, Estonia, Kosovo and Lithuania.
Exiled Tibetans protest China’s “Genocide Olympics” in Dharmsala, India on Feb. 3, 2021.AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia, File
While athletes from those nations will still be permitted to compete, their governments will not send official diplomatic delegations to Beijing to protest China’s human-rights abuses.
Suozzi and Smith noted that Biden last December signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act into law, “reflecting a bipartisan consensus that America will take action.”
The legislation bans the importing of Chinese goods made with forced labor in Xinjiang.
Demonstrators protest China’s alleged “Ethnic Cleansing of Uyghurs” outside the Chinese embassy in London on Dec. 9, 2021.AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali
The congressmen called for the IOC to disclose whether uniforms worn by athletes during the games were manufactured using forced labor and encourage “corporate sponsors to disclose their human rights due diligence strategies.”
They also said that athletes, coaches and staff “should not face retaliation” for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and that the IOC should work with human-rights groups to discuss ways to fight back against abuses.
In an effort to draw further attention to the games, Suozzi, who is running for New York governor, said he plans to partake in a march from the Chinese Consulate to Times Square on Thursday with groups that have been subjected to abuses.
A Human rights group calls out China’s abuse of Uyghur people in Taipei, Taiwan on Jan. 26, 2022.AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying
“I think it would have been good to boycott the Olympics, it would have sent a very strong message,” he told The Post in an interview. “We only got a diplomatic boycott which I think sends a message as well, but that’s why we need to do even more like we’re doing now.”
Suozzi noted that Uyghurs and other minority groups that have spoken out about being targeted by the CCP have put themselves and those close to them at risk of retaliation.
“We need the whole country in the whole world to realize what’s going on in China right now,” he said.
Rep. Chris Smith meets with blind Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng (right) in New York on May 19, 2012.REUTERS
“The Olympics is going to be a big diversion — there’s going to be all kinds of pageantry and parades and banners and things like that,” Suozzi continued. “But we can’t let that cover up the fact that there is mass detention and sexual violence and torture and forced abortions and forced labor for sterilizations. We have to let people know that this is going on.”
Smith echoed Suozzi’s sentiments and said he is working on legislative options to help combat human-rights violations.
“This is a paradox for me,” he told The Post. “I love the Olympics. I love sports, but don’t do it in a dictatorship so that we have a reminiscence of the Nazi games in ’36. Now we have the genocide games in 2022.”
Rep. Chris Smith compared the Beijing Winter Olympics to “the Nazi games in ’36.”AP Photo/Julio Corte
Smith added that demonstrations like picketing, delivering floor speeches on the topic and congressional hearings should be held to further draw attention to the matter in coming days.