Lawmakers warn of danger for Olympic athletes, call on Blinken to brief Beijing-bound U.S. team

House Foreign Affairs Committee Republicans are raising alarms about the safety of U.S. athletes at the Winter Olympics in Beijing next week and calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to brief the athletes on China’s human rights abuses.

In a letter to Mr. Blinken, the lawmakers said the athletes could be in jeopardy if they speak out about China’s human rights record.

“The severity of the human rights crisis in China is very likely to motivate American athletes to speak out. Some already have,” they wrote. “We can be certain any efforts to stand up for the PRC’s downtrodden will come at great risk to those athletes.”

The letter, led by the committee’s ranking Republican, Rep. Michael T. McCaul of Texas, also demanded Mr. Blinken brief the athletes per U.S. policy that requires such briefings. 

“Given the historic human rights challenge of the Beijing Winter Olympics, U.S. athletes deserve to be informed of the full breadth of the CCP’s atrocities and malign actions before competing, including the ongoing genocide, the suppression of democracy and dissent, and the attendant risks they face in China,” the lawmakers wrote.

The annual defense policy bill that President Biden signed into law in December included a requirement that the State Department “brief U.S. athletes competing in international athletic competitions on the human rights abuses and safety concerns of certain host countries.”

They asked Mr. Blinken to respond with the State Department’s plans for briefing the athletes and “what actions the Department has taken to keep American participants safe if they choose to exercise their freedom of speech during Beijing 2022.”

Mr. Biden announced a diplomatic boycott of the games last month citing “the PRC’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses.”

The games are slated to kick off next month.

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