Congressional leaders called for a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics – if they are held as scheduled in Beijing – due to the ongoing “genocide” against Uyghurs in China.

“In granting Beijing host status for the Olympic Games, we are crowning a barbarous regime with laurels while we should be condemning their abuse and genocide,” stated Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, at a hearing of the commission on Tuesday.  

He cited the “genocide” in the region of Xinjiang. According to reports, as many as 1.8 million Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities have been detained in a network of camps, where survivors or relatives of prisoners have reported indoctrination, beatings, torture, forced sterilizations, and other abuses.

Regional authorities have set up a system of mass surveillance and predictive policing outside the camps, in a situation one State Department official last week compared to an “open-air prison.” The largely-Muslim Uyghur population has been subject to repression of religious practices, and children have been separated from their parents and indoctrinated at schools. Forced sterilization, contraception, and abortion on Uyghur women has effected a steep decline in the region’s birth rates.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that the treatment of the Uyghurs and other minorities amounted to genocide, and current Secretary of State Antony Blinken has confirmed that assessment.

Smith urged the International Olympic Committee to “find a new host city” for the Olympic games.

“In light of what is now known—and in solidarity with the oppressed and not the oppressor, in solidarity with the victims and not the victimizer—I urge the IOC and all interested parties, including the United States, to find a new host city—or boycott,” Smith said of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

“To our big corporations, don’t enable or sponsor the ‘Genocide Olympics’,” he added.

Smith spoke at a Tuesday hearing of the commission on “China, Genocide, and the Olympics.”  

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who testified at Tuesday’s hearing, called for world leaders to boycott the 2022 Olympics, if they are held in Beijing.

“But for heads of state to go to China in light of a genocide that is ongoing, while you’re sitting there in your seats, really begs the question what moral authority do you have to speak about human rights anyplace in the world, if you’re willing to pay your respects to the Chinese government as they commit genocide?” she said.

“I’m a big sports fan. I watch the Olympics in the middle of the night,” she said, urging political leaders to “honor them [athletes] at home” rather than by traveling to Beijing.

Both Smith and Pelosi emphasized that prisoners of conscience depend upon leaders in other countries speaking out on their behalf.

“For the Chinese government, the most excruciating form of torture is to say to the prisoners ‘Nobody cares, nobody even remembers you are here, and they don’t know why. Why don’t you just give up?’” Pelosi said.

Smith noted that “having spoken with countless numbers of political prisoners of dictatorial regimes, I concluded that when the rulers of these countries know that these individuals are remembered, their situation improves.”

“It is when they forgotten,” he said, “when these oppressive governments are apparently rewarded with business investments and the ability to host the Olympic games—then their situation worsens, because the dictators realize there is no accountability for their actions.”

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Sophie Richardson, China director of the group Human Rights Watch, recommended a diplomatic boycott of the games in her written testimony for the hearing.