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US ambassador: China trying ‘to distract us’ by choosing Uyghur for Olympic opening ceremony

Greg Nash

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on Sunday said China’s decision to have a Uyghur athlete help deliver the Olympic flame in the opening ceremony for the 2022 Winter Games was an effort “to distract us from the real issue at hand that Uyghur’s are being tortured.”

“This is an effort by the Chinese to distract us from the real issue here at hand that Uyghurs are being tortured, and Uyghurs are the victims of human rights violations by the Chinese. And we have to keep that front and center,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield told co-anchor Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The 2022 Winter Olympics began in Beijing on Friday, when China chose a Uyghur athlete to help light the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony.

Many countries, including the U.S., are holding diplomatic boycotts of the Games. White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced the decision in December, telling reporters that the U.S. was engaging in such a move, “given [China’s] ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses.”

Thomas-Greenfield on Sunday said the situation in China is “not business as usual,” adding “we know that a genocide has been committed there.”

“We’ve made clear that crimes against humanity are being committed in China. So it is important that the audience who participated and witnessed this understand that this does not take away from what we know is happening on the ground there,” she said in response to a question about the Uyghur athlete taking part in the ceremony.

“We have to ensure that we continue to raise these concerns that are occurring in China at the moment,” she added.

Thomas-Greenfield also said that hopefully China will not take any actions against U.S. athletes who speak out.

“I will be clear that our goal is to make sure our athletes are safe. And we’re doing everything possible to ensure that,” she said.

“I can reassure U.S. athletes that the United States government will be standing with them in China, and we will be there to protect them,” she added.

–Updated at 11:53 a.m.

Tags Jake Tapper Jen Psaki Linda Thomas-Greenfield Winter Olympics

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