State Dept: ‘Not Going to Offer Advice to US Companies From This Podium’ on Boycotting Beijing Games

By Patrick Goodenough | April 6, 2021 | 10:40pm EDT
A paramilitary police officer at the entrance of at ice hockey arena in Beijing that will be used during the 2022 Winter Olympics. (Photo by Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images)
A paramilitary police officer at the entrance of at ice hockey arena in Beijing that will be used during the 2022 Winter Olympics. (Photo by Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – Less than a week after the State Department in its annual human right report reaffirmed that the U.S. believes the Chinese state is committing “genocide” in Xinjiang, spokesman Ned Price sidestepped when asked if major American companies sponsoring the Beijing Winter Olympics next year should reconsider.

“I’m not going to offer advice to U.S. companies from this podium,” Price said in response to a reporter’s question.

Top Olympic “partners” from the U.S. include Coca-Cola, Airbnb, Intel, Dow, General Electric, Procter & Gamble, and Visa.

Uyghur activists and rights advocacy groups have launched campaigns urging international brands among the top-tier sponsors (others include Toyota, Panasonic, and Samsung) to withdraw their support.

Gary Bauer, president of the conservative think tank American Values drew a contrast between some companies’ stance on Georgia’s new voting laws – Atlanta-based Coca-Cola is in the firing line from Republicans over its criticism of the legislation – and on mass violations in China like the clampdown on democracy in Hong Kong or incarceration of more than a million minority Muslims in internment camps in Xinjiang.

“Will any of these companies now condemning Georgia dare to condemn communist China or withdraw their sponsorships of the Beijing Olympics over China’s suppression of freedom in Hong Kong or its concentration camps or its persecution of Christians?” he asked.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), renewing earlier calls for Coca-Cola to pull its sponsorship unless the International Olympic Committee (IOC) moves the games to another venue, also linked the issue to the row over Georgia’s voting law.

“Given the company’s recent statements about their support for democracy, it’s time that Coca-Cola answer this call and end its support of Communist China,” he said.

Coca-Cola is the Olympics’ oldest corporate sponsor, with an association going back to 1928. In 2019 the company announced it was extending its relationship for another 12 years.

‘Offer to host the games in the US’

There have been growing calls on governments to boycott the Feb. 4-20, 2022 games – including from more than 180 human rights groups – unless the IOC finds an alternative host city.

In the U.S. Congress, resolutions in the House and Senate call for the event to be moved to “a country that recognizes and respects human rights.”

Scott, who authored the Senate resolution, called Tuesday on President Biden to demand that the Olympics be moved to the United States.

“Biden supports moving the MLB game out of Georgia, yet refuses to call on the International Olympic Committee to move the Olympics out of Communist China – which is committing a genocide against the Uyghurs,” he said.

Scott said Biden could use his influence to facilitate a relocation of the games.

“If Biden truly stands for human rights, he will immediately begin this process by offering to host the games in the United States and providing the necessary federal resources to get this done,” he said, urging the president to “lead America and the world and make clear that the United States will never tolerate the oppression and genocide occurring in Communist China.”

At Tuesday’s State Department briefing, Price reiterated that the administration was consulting with “partners and allies” over the issue of the 2022 Olympics, to “coordinate closely on decisions and approaches to the government in Beijing.”

Price was asked whether those discussions related to the possibility of “some sort of joint boycott.”

“Well, it is something that we certainly wish to discuss and that it is certainly something that we understand that a coordinated approach will be not only in our interests, but also in the interests of our allies and partners,” he replied.

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has said it does not support calls for boycotts.

“We oppose Games boycotts because they have been shown to negatively impact athletes while not effectively addressing global issues,” it said in an earlier statement. “We believe the more effective course of action is for the governments of the world and China to engage directly on human rights and political issues.”

In January, the outgoing Trump administration announced its determination that China has committed crimes against ethnic and religious minorities including depriving more than a million people of their liberty, torture, forced sterilization, and forced labor. The ongoing crimes, it said, amounted to genocide.

The State Department human rights report for 2020, released last week, stated, “Genocide and crimes against humanity occurred during the year against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang.”

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