Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. House speaker, has joined a growing list of bipartisan lawmakers calling for a diplomatic boycott of next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing because of China’s ongoing human rights violations.
China has drawn criticism from many Western countries because of the mass internment of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang province and the crackdown on protests and the democracy movement in Hong Kong.
Both issues complicate the path of the Winter Olympics, which will be held for the first time in China in 2022. Beijing is therefore the first city to host both the summer and winter edition of the games. The 2008 Olympics were held in Beijing and represented an opportunity to demonstrate the growing influence of the Asian country.
Pelosi and other politicians have openly criticized American companies sponsoring the Olympics for their silence regarding human rights violations in China.
“What I propose—and join those who are proposing—is a diplomatic boycott,” the House speaker told a congressional hearing on the issue Tuesday.
The House speaker said world leaders should “not honor the Chinese government by sending heads of state to China” for the games, which are scheduled between Feb. 4 and Feb. 20 next year.
Pelosi rhetorically questioned what moral authority on the issue of human rights heads of state can have to go to China while genocide is underway.
Republican Rep. Chris Smith, who led the hearing, called for sponsors to be held accountable and heard before Congress.
“Big business wants to make lots of money, and it doesn’t seem to matter what cruelty—even genocide—that the host nation commits,” he said.
Massachusetts Democratic Representative Jim McGovern called for the Games to be postponed a year and moved to a “country that is not doing atrocities. […] If we can postpone an Olympics by a year for a pandemic, we can surely postpone the Olympics for a year for a genocide,” the Democrat said referring to the delay of the Tokyo Olympics because of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In recent months, bipartisan political initiatives to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics have multiplied. In February, Nikki Haley, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said that allowing China to host the games would mean allowing more horrors in the future.
In March, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that there are disturbing similarities between the Chinese Olympics and the 1936 Nazi Olympics.
In April, Republican Senator Mitt Romney introduced an amendment to broader legislation calling for the United States to implement a diplomatic boycott to counter the threat posed by Beijing.
U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) Chairwoman Susanne Lyons acknowledged the seriousness of the situation, but added that boycotting the Winter Olympics will only hurt the athletes. The boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, according to Lyons, did not bring tangible results.
A report by the United Nations and human rights activists estimated that at least one million Uighurs and other Muslims are held in internment camps in China.
Beijing has denied the existence of these camps in the past and later described them as labor centers whose purpose is to eradicate the threat of terrorism.