Olympic Presser Gets Heated Over Taiwan, Uighurs

Reports of human rights abuses are 'lies,' organizing committee rep claims
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 17, 2022 8:22 AM CST
Olympic Presser Gets Political Over Taiwan, Uighurs
A competitor slides past the Olympic rings during the luge women's singles run 1 at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing on Feb. 7.   (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

(Newser) – What sports? The Beijing Olympics organizing committee's last scheduled daily news conference of the Games got downright political, as journalists asked about Taiwan, the forced labor of Uighurs, and the safety of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai. Yan Jiarong, an organizing committee spokesperson, first made clear that China considers Taiwan to be its own territory when asked to confirm a statement from Taiwan's Olympic team, which said Olympic officials were requiring members to attend the closing ceremony. "Taiwan is an indivisible part of China" and this is "well recognized in the international community," Yan said, per NPR, adding "we are always against the idea of politicizing the Olympic Games."

IOC spokesperson Mark Adams was then asked whether Yan hadn't politicized the Games herself, though he "dodged the question," per the AP. Later asked about the IOC's position on "concentration camps" in China's Xinjiang region, where Uighurs have been detained and forced to labor in factories, Adams again avoided a direct reply. But Yan jumped in. "I think these questions are very much based on lies," she said. "Some authorities have already disputed this false information. There is a lot of solid evidence. You are very welcome to refer to all that evidence and the facts." Adams was then pressed on whether the IOC could be sure its uniforms—from China's Anta, which sources products from Xinjiang—were not made with forced labor.

He denied any connection to Xinjiang before Yan interjected. "I think the so-called forced labor in Xinjiang are lies made up by deliberate groups," she said. "And we are against the politicization of sports." Though officials have been focused on keeping the Games politically neutral—athletes were warned against any criticism of China for fear of retribution—China "is also very committed to vigorously defending its stances publicly," the AP reports, adding "it was only a matter of time before these topics burst at the seams." A volunteer was also asked whether she believed Peng, who walked back sexual assault allegations against a former high-ranking government official, was safe. "Well, I am sorry," the Chinese graduate student replied, per the AP. "I don't really know that." (Read more China stories.)

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