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Washington, D.C. – Following statements by an official of the 2022 Beijing Olympics that athletes should limit their free speech of human rights abuses, House Foreign Affairs Committee Lead Republican Michael McCaul joined a bipartisan group of Members in a statement demanding the International Olympic Committee immediately clarify its policies on athletes’ freedom to speak during this year’s games in Beijing.
Ranking Member McCaul was joined by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Vice Ranking Member Ann Wagner (R-MO) along with Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Development, International Organizations and Global Corporate Social Impact Chairman Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia, and Nonproliferation Ranking Member Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Chairman Ami Bera (D-CA) and Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL).
“The International Olympic Committee (IOC)—and its president Thomas Bach—must immediately clarify that free speech by athletes is absolutely guaranteed at the Olympics. Beijing 2022 Olympics officials have recently stated that athletes must limit their speech on human rights issues in line with domestic People’s Republic of China (PRC) laws or face ‘certain punishment’. This directly contradicts commitments made by the IOC at an October meeting with members of the U.S. Congress, where IOC representatives provided explicit assurances of their commitment to protect athletes if they are prevented from speaking out freely on human rights during the Beijing games.
“While the IOC has in the past prohibited political statements during competitions or medal ceremonies, Rule 50.2 of the Olympic Charter explicitly states that athletes and participants are free to speak on sensitive matters in broadcast and media centers, in interviews, on social media, and during press conferences. That freedom extends to issues such as the PRC’s genocide against Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minorities, repressive surveillance practices, or the dismantling of freedoms in Hong Kong. Given the latest troubling comments by the Beijing Organizing Committee, we call on the IOC to issue a public reaffirmation of its commitment to protect free speech during the Games, and to clarify what actions it will take to protect athletes if the organizing committee or local authorities try to silence them.”
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