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US Congress panel slams Coca-Cola, Visa and Airbnb for sponsoring Beijing Olympics

US Congress panel slams Coca-Cola, Visa and Airbnb for sponsoring Beijing Olympics

A bipartisan US Congressional panel on Tuesday took corporate giants Coca-Cola, Visa, Airbnb and Procter & Gamble to task for putting profit above all else in their decision to sponsor the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics despite the human rights violations in China.

Republican Congressman Chris Smith told the Congressional-Executive Commission on China that the sponsors needed to reconcile their "ostensible commitment to human rights" with subsidizing an Olympics where the host country is "actively committing human rights abuses," according to a Reuters report from Washington.

Smith asked the representatives from these corporates whether the Beijing Winter Olympics should be shifted to some other country or postponed due to concerns over human rights violations. All of them declined to express an opinion, or were evasive in their response.

"We do not make decisions on these host locations. We support and follow the athletes wherever they compete," Reuters cited Coca-Cola's global vice president for human rights Paul Lalli as saying.

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When asked about the U.S. government’s finding that China was committing a genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslims minority groups, only Steve Rodgers, executive vice president and general counsel for Intel, said he believed it.

Other executives said they respected the U.S. government's conclusions, but would not comment on the matter.

"Obviously, every one of you, with the exception on occasion of Mr. Rodgers, was sent here with orders not to say anything that could offend the Chinese Communist Party," Cotton said, calling testimony at the hearing "pathetic and disgraceful".

President Joe Biden's administration has supported the conclusion reached by the erstwhile Trump administration that the detention camps and other abuses amounted to genocide.

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While the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing are scheduled for February, many countries are considering whether to boycott the games. Several human rights groups are advocating a full boycott over China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang and other regions, while some experts and policymakers have proposed alternatives.

A coalition of nearly two hundred rights groups argues that participating in the Beijing Olympics would be turning a blind eye to these abuses and could be seen as an endorsement of the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarian rule.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), which organizes the games, has sought to avoid the controversy, reaffirming that it maintains a “neutral position on political issues.”

There have been earlier instances of Olympic Games being boycotted and an accompanying loss in prestige for host nations.

The United States had led a boycott of the Moscow Olympics in 1980 to protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Soviet Union had then retaliated in 1984 and boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics. Earlier more than 20 African countries had boycotted the 1976 Montreal Olympics after the International Olympic Committee refused to ban New Zealand, whose rugby team had ignored an international sporting embargo and toured South Africa, a country which had been boycotted for apartheid.