Washington D.C., Jul 14, 2021 / 15:02 pm (CNA).
A member of Congress is seeking a vote by the entire U.S. House to require the Biden Administration to push for a change of venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics, scheduled to be held in Beijing.
On Tuesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted 26-21 to exclude Rep. Chris Smith’s (R-N.J.) amendment from a bill related to U.S. diplomatic efforts and investments in the Indo-Pacific region, the Ensuring American Global Leadership and Engagement (EAGLE) Act.
“This amendment calls on President Biden to craft a plan of action to engage with the International Olympic Committee to secure a change in venue for the 2022 Olympics in Beijing,” stated Smith.
He said he would work to have his amendment considered by the entire House of Representatives.
Smith has referred to the 2022 Winter Olympics as the “Genocide Games,” due to the U.S. State Department’s determination that genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang is ongoing.
China has created a network of detention camps in Xinjiang, where as many as 1.8 million Uyghurs and other minorities are estimated to have been imprisoned; detainees have reported torture, indoctrination, beatings, forced sterilizations, and other abuses at the camps. Outside the camps, Uyghurs have been subjected to forced labor, mass surveillance and predictive policing, and violations of religious freedom.
Smith said it was “deeply disturbing” that his amendment was voted down by the committee.
“The United States must send a strong message that we will not tolerate the horrific abuses perpetrated by the Chinese Communist Party,” he said in a statement released Tuesday.
Smith said it was “unconscionable” for Chinese President Xi Jinping to welcome Olympic athletes and spectators to his country “while simultaneously butchering the people of Xinjiang.”
“A change in venue is possible if there is a political will by the international community for it, and we must insist upon it,” said Smith.
Other members of Congress from both parties have called for a “diplomatic boycott” of the 2022 Winter Olympics–meaning that athletes may attend and compete for the United States at the games, but there will be no diplomatic presence of United States officials. The European Union has called for a similar diplomatic boycott.
Smith noted that in May, one of the witnesses at his hearing on the “Genocide Games” pointed out that other countries have faced stricter penalties at the Olympics for crimes far less severe than genocide.
Samuel Chu, the managing director of the Hong Kong Democracy Council, said in his testimony in May that the World Anti-Doping Agency banned Russia from competing in or hosting all major sporting events until 2023, due to its doping athletics program. Athletes from Russia who are found to be clean of illicit drugs now compete in the Olympics under the Olympic flag, and are known as the “Olympic Athletes From Russia.”
“Russia, for the crime of doping, is banned from the Games hosted by a regime committing crimes against humanity,” said Chu at the hearing.
“Let that sink in,” he said. “If a two-year ban is a justified punishment for doping, what is justified for the lives and freedoms of 13 million ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and 7.5 million Hong Kongers?”
The 2022 Winter Olympics were awarded to Beijing on July 31, 2015. Few countries sought to bid for hosting the games, and four potential host cities – Krakow, Poland; Lviv, Ukraine; Stockholm, Sweden; and Oslo, Norway – dropped out of the bidding process due to cost concerns for hosting the games.
The two finalists for hosting the games were Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan. Beijing won by four votes, and will become the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. In 2008, Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics.
Smith traveled to China to protest that year’s Olympics over human rights concerns.
After the United States in 2020 leveled sanctions against Chinese officials complicit in the network of detention camps in Xinjiang, China retaliated in part with sanctions against Smith.
The United States has never fully boycotted a Winter Olympics, but it did boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics, which were held in Moscow; the U.S. boycott was due to the Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet Bloc responded by boycotting the 1984 Summer Olympics, which were held in Los Angeles.
The 2026 Winter Olympics will be held in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. It is the first time the event will be held in two official host cities.