‘Jaw-Dropping’ Official Olympic Press Conference Defends China’s Abuse of Uyghurs

For a few weeks, everyone in Beijing was able to pretend that the Olympics were just about sports. Forget human rights. Forget China’s threat to invade Taiwan. Don’t even think about being political or making any kind of statement.

But a senior State Department official who serves as the official spokesman for Beijing 2022, Yan Jiarong, blew that away on Thursday, wasting bad time in his final press conference. according to the schedule of the Organizing Committee.

Among her claims: those about forced labor camps in Xinjiang province were “lies”; and that although Taiwan will be present in Sunday’s closing ceremony, there can be only “one China”.

In between, for good measure, Yan made it clear that it was the reporters who asked the questions, not herself, who had improperly “politicized the Olympics”.

More than a dozen Western countries have joined the US-led “diplomatic boycott” of the Beijing Olympics over abuses in Xinjiang, where human rights groups say more than one million ethnic minorities say more than a million ethnic minorities have died. Uighurs and members of other Muslim minorities are being held in brutal labor camps. The US State Department described the crackdown as a “genocide”.

The Chinese gave a metaphorical middle finger to those criticisms when they chose a young Uighur cross-country skier to light the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony at the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing. Beijing — but since then both the IOC and the Beijing organizing committee have tried to keep political questions off the agenda.

However, the gloves made their debut on Thursday, at a joint press conference of the IOC and Beijing organizing committee, the last such event scheduled in Beijing.

Following the official announcement earlier in the day that there was not a single positive test on Wednesday of the nearly 70,000 people tested daily in the Beijing Olympic “loop” — allowing organizers to claim victory ahead of variant Omicron — there should have been a sense of celebration to the occasion.

But Yan did not appear to have read the memo, repeatedly interrupting questions with IOC spokesman Mark Adams to clarify China’s position on major political questions.

Adams was asked about Taiwan’s participation in the closing ceremony – after the IOC stated that the IOC had effectively bullied Taiwan in sending a delegation – Yan interrupted to make “additional remarks”. fig”.

“We have a solemn position,” she said. “There is only one China in the world. Taiwan is an indivisible part of China, that is a well-recognized international principle. We have always been against the idea of ​​politicizing the Olympic Games.”

She intervened again when Adams was asked about the existence of “concentration camps” in Xinjiang and the use of forced labor – questions he tried to dismiss as “not particularly relevant” to meeting.

“I think these questions are very much based on lies,” she said. “Some authorities have denied this misinformation. There is a lot of solid evidence. We very much welcome you to consult all such evidence and facts. ”

Yan interrupted again when Adams was questioned about reports – denied by an IOC spokesman – that IOC uniforms were made by Uyghur workers or from cotton grown in Xinjiang. “These are lies from the groups involved,” she said. “We are against the politicization of sport. Thank you.”

Yan’s tough statements may not have been applied at a meeting of the Beijing Foreign Ministry, where foreign reporters asked inconvenient questions that are often brought up in submission — but not on a joint platform with the IOC at the Olympic Games.

And it certainly shocked journalists at the press conference, with veteran British correspondent Duncan Mackay describing Yan’s performance as “astonishing” and alleging that the Chinese official had violated the Code of Conduct. 50 of the Olympic Charter, which reads: “No demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any venue, Olympic venue or other area.”

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