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Lawmakers call on NBC to address China human rights abuses in Olympic broadcasts

A pair of lawmakers are calling on NBCUniversal, the official U.S. broadcaster for the Olympics, to use its coverage of the Winter Games in Beijing to raise awareness of human rights abuses taking place in China.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.), the chair and co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), a bipartisan and bicameral committee focused on monitoring human rights in the country, sent a letter to NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell on Thursday calling for commitments from the broadcaster that include providing background coverage of the Chinese government’s human rights abuses.

This includes in Xinjiang — where the U.S. has determined a genocide is taking place against the Uyghur population — and Beijing’s democratic rollbacks in Hong Kong.

The lawmakers further call for NBC to press Chinese authorities to publicly affirm media and religious freedom during the coverage of the games. International broadcasts are routinely censored in China over topics of human rights. 

The lawmakers also ask the broadcaster to avoid amplifying Chinese propaganda that promotes Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities as “happy” in an effort by Beijing to cover up human rights abuses. 

“The nearly one billion dollars that NBCUniversal and its affiliates have invested in these Games means the organization bears the responsibility in addressing the impact of China’s human rights abuses,” the letter read. 

“Athletes, support staff, and members of the media will be present in a country where an active genocide is taking place, and in adhering with the charter of the Games to foster ‘respect for universal and fundamental ethical principles,’ NBCUniversal must think about what that means for those participating in Beijing and Chinese citizens alike.” 

The letter to NBCUniversal builds on a campaign by the CECC to target organizations and people that hold business interests in the country.

The CECC has called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to more forcefully press China on human rights concerns, following unheeded demands that the IOC abandon holding the Winter Olympics in Beijing. 

The CECC put its support behind the Biden administration’s decision to impose a diplomatic boycott of the games, encouraging other nations to follow the U.S. example, but argues more action can be taken. 

In particular, the CECC calls for senior executives of American corporate sponsors of the IOC to boycott the Beijing games. 

Tags James McGovern Jeff Merkley

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