US senators urge IOC to remove 2022 Winter Olympics from China

Human rights groups issued an open letter urging world leaders to boycott the 2022 Beijing winter Olympic

A group of US senators has introduced a resolution seeking to remove the 2022 Winter Olympics from China, and a coalition of 180 rights organizations has called for a boycott of the Games.

The resolution submitted by Senator Rick Scott of Florida and six other Republican senators urges the International Olympic Committee to rebid the 2022 Olympics so they can be "hosted by a country that recognizes and respects human rights."

"China is committing genocide against the Uighurs in Xinjiang, restricting the human rights of Hong Kongers, and threatening Taiwan," Scott said in a statement.

"Communist China should not be allowed to host the 2022 Olympic Games while simultaneously running concentration camps, violating human rights and systematically oppressing the people of Hong Kong."

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki was asked by reporters at Tuesday's daily briefing about efforts to remove the 2022 Winter Games from China.

"I have seen some reports," Psaki said. "I don't have any update for you or change of our approach to the Beijing Olympics."

Earlier Wednesday, a coalition of campaign groups issued an open letter calling on world leaders to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics over China's human rights record.

The Games are scheduled to begin on February 4 next year, just six months after the delayed summer Tokyo Olympics, but preparations have been overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic.

China is facing global scrutiny over a range of issues, notably the mass internment of Uighur Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang, and its clampdown in Hong Kong.

About 180 rights groups signed the open letter, which called on world leaders to boycott the Beijing Winter Games "to ensure they are not used to embolden the Chinese government's appalling rights abuses and crackdowns on dissent."

The coalition, which includes the World Uighur Congress and International Tibet Network, said that since Beijing was awarded the Games in 2015, "President Xi Jinping has unleashed an unrelenting crackdown on basic freedom and human rights."

In a statement to AFP, the International Olympic Committee said that concerns raised by campaign groups, including over rights, "were and are raised with the government and local authorities."

Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China's foreign ministry, said the 2022 Games would be "a wonderful and outstanding event."

"At the same time, I would also like to point out that politically motivated attempts to interfere or disrupt the preparations of the Games is very irresponsible," he said of the open letter.

"Such a move won't be supported by the international community and won't succeed."

China has been under growing pressure, particularly over the fate of its Uighur minority.

Rights groups believe that at least one million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslim minorities are incarcerated in camps in Xinjiang.

After initially denying the camps existed, the Chinese government abruptly acknowledged them, saying they were vocational training centers aimed at reducing the allure of Islamic extremism.