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US warns China will use Olympics to gloss over abuses

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A Falun Gong activist holds a sign in January 2021 next to a tour group from mainland China, where repression of the spiritual group prompted US sanctions on a former official./AFP
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May 13, 2021 - 09:57 AM

WASHINGTON — The United States warned Wednesday that Beijing would use the Winter Olympics to gloss over abuses as it slapped sanctions on another Chinese official over treatment of the Falun Gong.

Releasing an annual US report on international religious freedom that found widespread concerns in China, a senior official said the United States was still considering its moves ahead of the Olympics in February.

“We can’t turn a blind eye to Beijing’s abhorrent human rights record,” said Dan Nadel, a State Department official who works on religious freedom.

“We’re reviewing options on policy and messaging related to the Games that will advance US priorities, which includes countering Beijing’s intent to use the Games as a platform to somehow validate their governing model and paper over their gross human rights violations,” he told reporters.

Nadel argued that such violations included Tibet, Hong Kong and the rest of China, particularly the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region.

The Chinese government has “turned Xinjiang into an open-air camp” where people’s movements are “closely tracked,” Nadel said.

“We recognize that when it comes to the Olympics, our efforts will be most effective if we act alongside likeminded partners,” he said, adding that the administration was “consulting with Congress, allies and partners and other key stakeholders as we proceed.”

Human rights groups and figures from former president Donald Trump’s Republican Party have urged a boycott of the Beijing Olympics, amid a sharp deterioration of relations between the United States and China.

President Joe Biden’s administration has stopped short of backing a boycott, an idea strongly opposed by US athletes and that is seen as unlikely to gain widespread support among other Western nations.

The United States under both presidents has accused China of carrying out genocide in the western region of Xinjiang, where more than one million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic people are estimated to be held in camps.

In the latest US action, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that Yu Hui, a Chengdu-based former official who was in charge of dealing with “heretical religions,” would along with his family be denied admission to the United States.

Blinken pointed to his “gross violations of human rights” including arbitrary detentions of members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement.

Beijing in 2009 launched a campaign to eradicate Falun Gong after the group demonstrated growing influence.

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