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American Values and Security in International Athletics Act

Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 18, 2020
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from New York for his support, and Chairman Engel, once again. The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics were a triumph for the China Communist Party and a significant blow for human rights.

While the CCP aired lavish television spectacles for the world to see, they were evicting people from their homes, arresting activists, and harassing foreign journalists. Now, 12 years later, human rights abuses have only escalated in China.

The CCP is currently oppressing anywhere from 1 to 3 million ethic minorities in Xinjiang. These prison camps are described as oppressive with harsh labor conditions, brainwashing, and even forced sterilizations and abortions. The Department of Defense has compared them to concentration camps.

At the same time, the CCP continues to crack down on the people of Hong Kong for simply asking for the freedoms they were promised. And we should never forget the role the CCP played in the COVID-19 pandemic. In an attempt to hide the truth from the world and cover up their own culpability in allowing what could have been a regional epidemic, they allowed it to turn into a global pandemic. The CCP destroyed lab samples and threatened and arrested doctors and journalists who were simply just trying to report the truth.

However, even with all this happening, Beijing is still set to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Unfortunately, the International Olympic Committee has shown their lack of concern for the CCP's escalating human rights violations, whether it be the Uighur Muslims, the Tibetan monks or the Christian population.

They are even refusing to discuss moving the games and have refused to use the upcoming games to simply put pressure on the CCP to stop their attacks on human rights.

Just like they did in 2008, the CCP will try to use games, including American athletes, to whitewash their history and improve their image.

Today, there is no structure to prepare our athletic delegations for this threat.

That is why Chairman Engel and I introduced the American Values and Security in International Athletics Act.

This bipartisan bill would direct the State Department to establish a briefing program on human rights violations and personal privacy concerns American athletes will face in countries that denigrate human rights, like China.

So when we send our American athletes to represent us in authoritarian countries that flagrantly abuse human rights, those athletes deserve to know exactly what is happening. Then they can make an informed decision about their own participation, particularly as we prepare for the 2022 games.

Mr. Speaker, this is the 40th anniversary of the United States boycott on the Moscow Olympics.

At that time, in support of President Carter's boycott against the Soviet Union, famous sports journalist Howard Cosell said:

It seemed absolutely wrong to me to let the Soviet Union use our athletes and our technology capabilities to broadcast their perverse propaganda to every corner of the globe.

I agree with Howard Cosell.

Mr. Speaker, we need to come together again to raise awareness for the next winter Olympics in China.

Silence is not an option. And this bipartisan bill is an important step to ensure the United States Olympians, many of whom are icons and adored by our children as role models, to make sure that they are educated about where they are competing when they go abroad to China.

I urge my colleagues to support this bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, hosting the Olympics is an honor that indicates the host country's legitimacy on the world stage, but unfortunately, this honor has been handed to governments who misuse it time and again.

We cannot let the Olympic games become a tool for corrupt and malign governments to conceal their behavior and portray themselves in a positive light. We know that the CCP will use international participation in the Olympics to normalize its atrocities. They have done it once before.

At the very least, we should ensure that American athletes have the opportunity to at least be informed and to protect themselves and their personal privacy.

We have all traveled, as Members of Congress, across the globe to oppressive governments. Many of us have been under surveillance in hostile governments like Russia and China and other countries. This bill simply allows for our athletes to have the same courtesy, to be briefed in advance about the threats that they may face while they are in the host country at the Olympics in China.

Again, I want to thank the gentleman from New York for his support; Chairman Engel, my dear friend, for cosponsoring the bill, along with Representatives Sherman, Spanberger, and Phillips.

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