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Sen. Cotton urges U.S. boycott of Winter Olympics in China, citing athlete safety, oppression of Uyghurs

He cites security of athletes by Ryan Tarinelli | November 19, 2021 at 3:28 a.m.

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., on Thursday called for the Biden administration to initiate a complete boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, a move that would prevent American athletes from competing at the international sporting event.

The junior senator from Arkansas said the White House has no plan to protect the athletes from surveillance. That surveillance could happen inside facilities or via their cellphones, said Cotton, who suggested the Chinese government could also collect DNA information from American athletes through covid-19 tests. In arguing for the total boycott, he also pointed to the Chinese government's oppression of ethnic minorities.

"For these reasons – the safety and security of our own athletes and China's crimes against the world – we should launch a complete and total boycott," said Cotton, speaking during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol.

There were no indications Thursday that the White House plans to go forward with a full boycott of the games, which are scheduled for February.

China has faced criticism over its oppression of the Uyghurs. The U.S. Department of State has concluded government authorities in China "committed genocide against Uyghurs."

"Genocide and crimes against humanity occurred during the year against the predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang," according to the department's 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

It's anticipated the Biden administration will reveal a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics in which no U.S. government officials would attend the international event, according to a report in The Washington Post. The newspaper cited several sources familiar with the matter.

Biden said Thursday they are considering a diplomatic boycott.

A diplomatic boycott, Cotton said, is the bare minimum. Since the winter Olympics are a smaller operation than its summer counterpart, Cotton said other countries could have held the games.

"If the Biden administration had taken it seriously from the very beginning, if they had rallied support of our allies, I'm confident we could have found a free and democratic country that could've hosted these Winter Olympics on short notice," he said.

Dozens of organizations have called for a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympic games over China's track record with human rights.

Cotton is an outspoken critic of China, but there is some bipartisan support on the Olympic game issue.

Earlier this year, a group of congressional Democrats and Republicans put forward a resolution urging the International Olympic Committee to relocate the winter games if China failed to release Uyghurs held arbitrarily.

"I don't think it's right to hold the Olympics in a country where the government is committing genocide," U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski, a Democrat from New Jersey, wrote on Twitter.

Cotton issued a letter earlier this year asking the White House for more information and warning that the games will bring up "unique challenges for the safety, security and privacy of Americans who attend."

"And the sum total of their response to my letter was they have no plan," he said.

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