US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday called for a US diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, criticizing China for human rights abuses and saying global leaders who attend would lose their moral authority.
US lawmakers have been increasingly vocal about an Olympic boycott or venue change, and have lashed out at American corporations, arguing their silence about what the State Department has deemed a genocide of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China was abetting the Chinese government.
Pelosi, a Democrat, told a bipartisan congressional hearing on the issue that heads of state around the world should shun the games, scheduled for February next year.
“What I propose – and join those who are proposing – is a diplomatic boycott,” Pelosi said, in which “lead countries of the world withhold their attendance at the Olympics.”
“Let’s not honor the Chinese government by having heads of state go to China,” she added.
“For heads of state to go to China in light of a genocide that is ongoing – while you’re sitting there in your seat – really begs the question, what moral authority do you have to speak again about human rights any place in the world?” she said.
An independent United Nations panel said in 2018 it had received credible reports that at least 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslims had been held in camps in China’s Xinjiang region. Beijing describes them as vocational training centers to stamp out extremism, and strongly rejects accusations of abuse and genocide.
Proponents of Americans competing in Beijing’s Olympics say it would be unfair to punish athletes, and the Games would provide a platform for the United States, which has one of the highest Winter Olympic medal counts, to show its vitality on the global stage.
Sarah Hirshland, the chief executive officer of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said in a written statement the committee was concerned about the “oppression of the Uyghur population,” but barring U.S. athletes from the Games was “certainly not the answer.”
“Past Olympic boycotts have failed to achieve political ends,” she said.