American athletes have been advised not to speak out against China as the 2022 Beijing Olympics begin.
Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, said Team USA athletes should avoid angering the country’s Chinese Communist Party, which she described as “ruthless”.
His remarks came a day before the opening ceremony of the Games being held in Beijing – the first city to host both a Summer and Winter Olympics – on Friday.
“I would say to our athletes – you’re here to compete,” Ms Pelosi said. “Don’t risk incurring the wrath of the Chinese government for being ruthless. Be careful.”
The Democrat, who was speaking before a congressional committee on China, later praised US President Joe Biden on Thursday for his diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Olympics.
She had been among the most vocal supporters of a ban on US diplomats traveling to Beijing – in what many saw as an effective endorsement of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
China, which has dismissed claims of a poor record on human rights and freedoms, hit back at the United States and others ahead of its two-week sporting event.
In a rebuttal of the diplomatic boycott in December, China called the US move an act of “political posturing and manipulation” and even claimed it had not invited officials.
Countries such as the UK, New Zealand and the Netherlands have also decided not to send diplomats to the games and the opening ceremony – as is the norm for the Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) also came under fire on Thursday from Ms Pelosi, who she said had turned a blind eye to China’s human rights record by awarding the 2022 Games to Beijing.
This includes an alleged genocide perpetrated against Uyghur Muslims in a northwest Chinese province, Xinjiang.
A UK-based court ruled last year that the mass imprisonment and sterilization of Uyghurs constituted genocide, following similar findings by the UK and US governments.
Sarah Hirshland, head of the US team, meanwhile admitted to educating the athletes about Chinese laws and customs, but did not go so far as to attack the country’s human rights record.
“The part of the comments she made that I was grateful for was that she wished Team USA well and said they had their country’s support, and that’s what we’re looking for.” , Ms. Hirshland said of the Speaker of the House. .
Around 80% of Team USA athletes were scheduled to take part in the opening ceremony under strict Covid protocols for the games.
Additional Reuters reporting.
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Post expires at 10:48pm on Tuesday June 21st, 2022