Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo. spearheaded a letter co-signed by 29 of her colleagues sent to NBC CEO Jeff Shell and NBC Olympics President Gary Zenkel over its coverage of the upcoming Olympic Games being hosted next month in Beijing and the likely efforts of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to silence dissidents as the world tunes in to the network.
“We remain gravely concerned that the PRC will use the event as a platform to disseminate propaganda and distract from its egregious human rights abuses, including its ongoing genocide against Uyghur Muslims,” the lawmakers wrote. “While we still believe that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should revoke the PRC’s hosting privileges, in the event that the Olympics proceed as planned, honest and transparent coverage will help the international community defend persecuted groups like Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kong residents, Falun Gong practitioners, Christians, and human rights advocates.”
The lawmakers pointed to a “sharp upswing in human rights abuses” that were linked to the 2008 Olympics also hosted in Beijing, calling it a “tragedy” that the Olympic Games “can be repurposed as propaganda tools for authoritarian governments.”
They called for “full and transparent” coverage of PRC’s human rights violations and cited the disappearance of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, who had accused a former top official of sexual assault and was forced to retract her claim, and how “only pressure from the international community” convinced the PRC to show proof of her safety.
“The IOC has already indicated it will continue to amplify PRC propaganda during the games: it has actively collaborated with the PRC’s attempts to silence Peng Shuai and repeatedly indicated that will prioritize ‘respect [for] the sovereignty’ of host countries, a talking point long used by the CCP to dismiss any criticism of its human rights record,” the lawmakers stated. “In the absence of real action from the IOC, international media has a responsibility to shine a light on the human rights abuses perpetrated by the PRC.”
“Given the PRC’s demonstrated willingness to coerce foreign media into toeing the party line, the 2022 Winter Olympics have the potential to serve as a propaganda victory fo the People’s Republic of China if media entities do not stand up to its bullying… Amplifying the voices of courageous human rights advocates is an appropriate way to honor the sacrifices and achievements of American athletes, who have worked their entire lives to represent their country at the Olympic Games,” the lawmakers added.
Among the signatories include Republicans Ronny Jackson, Maria Elvira Salazar, Jackie Walorski, Michael Burgess, Bill Johnson, Troy Balderson, Gus Bilirakis, Louie Gohmert, Michael Waltz, Adam Kinzinger, William Timmons, Brian Babin, August Pfluger, Tim Burchett, Burgess Owens, Brian Fitzpatrick, Rick Allen, Vicky Hartzler, Andrew Clyde, Gregory Steube, Young Kim, Darrell Issa, Kat Cammack, Michelle Steele, Randy Weber, Joe Wilson and Christpher Smith.
Just two Democrats, Reps. Tom Malinowski and Jim Costa, also signed the letter.