US politicians have been increasingly vocal about an Olympic boycott or venue change, criticising American corporations for failing to speak out about what the State Department has deemed a genocide against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in China. Ms Pelosi, the Democrat Speaker of the House of Representatives, told a bipartisan congressional hearing on the issue that heads of state around the world should shun the games, scheduled for February of next year.
She said: “What I propose – and join those who are proposing – is a diplomatic boycott.”
Urging “lead countries of the world” to “withhold their attendance at the Olympics”, she added: “Let’s not honour the Chinese government by having heads of state go to China.
“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?”
An independent United Nations panel said in 2018 that it had received credible reports that at least one million Uighurs and other Muslims had been held in camps in China’s Xinjiang region.
Beijing insists they are vocational training centres to stamp out extremism, and strongly rejects claims of abuse and genocide.
Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern called for the games should be relocated.
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Demands for some form of boycott of the Beijing Games have been growing steadily.
Last month, Republican Senator Mitt Romney introduced an amendment to broader legislation to counter China that would implement a US diplomatic boycott.
And a coalition of human rights activists on Tuesday went further, calling for athletes themselves to boycott the Games and put pressure on the IOC.
US President Joe Biden’s administration has said it hopes to develop a joint approach with allies to participation in Beijing’s Olympics – but Secretary of State Antony Blinken has repeatedly said that the issue has not yet been broached in discussions.
Asked about Pelosi’s comments, a senior administration official said the administration’s position on the 2022 Olympics had not changed.
Mr Biden, like Ms Pelosi a Democrat, has said China is America’s strategic competitor, and has vowed to not allow the country surpass the United States as a world leader on his watch.
Advocates of Americans competing in Beijing’s Olympics say it would be unfair to punish athletes, and that 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 to the hearing that the committee was concerned about the “oppression of the Uyghur population,” but that barring US athletes from the Games was “certainly not the answer”.
She said: “Past Olympic boycotts have failed to achieve political ends – and they should give all of us pause in considering another boycott.”
Speaking in February in the Commons in response to a question by Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, Mr Johnson said he was not in favour of skipping the Games.
He explained: “We’re leading international action in the UN to hold China to account and will continue to work with the US, friends and partners around the world to do just that.
“He raises a point about a sporting boycott, we’re not normally in favour of sporting boycotts in this country and that’s been the long-standing position of this Government.”