US Senators Propose To Add Boycott Of Chinese Winter Olympics To Defense Bill

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By Michael Martina

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Thursday proposed an amendment to an annual defense policy bill that would force a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in China – in less than 100 days – in the midst of accusations of rights violations by Beijing.

The amendment, led by Republican Senator Mitt Romney, reflects language included in the vast China legislation passed by the Senate in June, and would prohibit the Secretary of State from spending federal funds to “support or facilitate” presence of US government employees at the Games.

But with the opening of the Olympics in February, the fate of this measure is in limbo. With Congress concerned about President Joe Biden’s national agenda, the bill passed by the Senate has stalled in the House of Representatives.

The new amendment, if approved, would add the diplomatic boycott provision to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2022 (NDAA), a defense bill that Congress has passed every year since 1961.

The amendment calls for “an end to continued human rights violations by the Communist Party of China, including the Uyghur genocide,” but allows US funding for athletes, as well as for the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee and its members. employees and contractors.

Such a boycott “will harm the Chinese Communist Party, rather than punish our American athletes,” Romney told Reuters in a statement.

The amendment is co-sponsored by Democrats Tim Kaine and Ed Markey, and Republican Todd Young. The four senators are members of the Committee on Foreign Relations.

Members of Congress have been vocal in demanding an Olympic boycott or a change of venue, and lambasted the companies, arguing that their silence on what the State Department has called genocide of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China encouraged the Chinese government.

Chinese authorities vehemently deny the abuse.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also called for a diplomatic boycott.

The White House, which is planning a virtual meeting between Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping this year, has so far largely avoided controversy, saying it hopes to discuss a joint approach with its allies.

Countries often send official delegations to participate in the Olympic Opening Ceremonies. First Lady Jill Biden led a delegation to the Tokyo Summer Olympics in July, offering her support to a key ally despite concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the extent of access by diplomatic delegations to the Games remains uncertain. Chinese authorities have said overseas spectators will not be allowed due to COVID.

(Reporting by Michael Martina and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by David Gregorio)


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