A group of U.S. lawmakers has called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the 2022 Beijing Olympics and relocate the event unless China ends its “egregious human rights abuses” against Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups.
The lawmakers said in a letter to IOC President Thomas Bach on July 23 that no Olympics should be held in a country whose government “is committing genocide and crimes against humanity.”
The lawmakers also said it would reflect poorly on the Olympic movement if the event, scheduled for February, is held in China and said that postponing and relocating the Olympics would also be in the best interests of the athletes.
“We find it unfair for the IOC to force athletes to sacrifice their conscience in order to pursue their competitive goals, or vice versa,” they said.
The letter was signed by Senator Jeff Merkley (Democrat-Oregon), Representative Jim McGovern (Democrat-Massachusetts), Senator Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida), and Representative Chris Smith (Republican-New Jersey).
The two Democrats are the chairman and co-chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC); the Republicans are commissioners.
The IOC has the ability to postpone the Olympics even on short notice, the lawmakers noted, citing the postponement of the 2020 Summer Olympics, which just got under way in Japan. The Tokyo Olympics were postponed last year four months before they were to begin because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The IOC has previously said that it is not a “super world government” that can resolve political issues in China.
The lawmakers’ letter said the matter is not whether the Olympics should be immune from politics.
“Taking action against genocide is not politics. It is about basic morality and human dignity,” they said.
China has been under international criticism for detaining more than 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities for facilitating forced labor and other abuses in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.
The U.S. State Department has determined that these actions constitute genocide and crimes against humanity.
China denies wrongdoing and insists such camps are “vocational education centers” aimed at helping people steer clear of terrorism.