American companies sponsoring the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics won't comment on questions from U.S. politicians over alleged human rights violations China has allegedly committed, insisting their focus is to go where the athletes go.
Executives with Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Visa, Intel and Airbnb deflected calls to condemn China's actions in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet. They all refused to comment, or said they had no responsibility for site selection.
"We do not make decisions on these host locations. We support and follow the athletes wherever they compete," Coca-Cola's vice president for human rights Paul Lalli said.
Only Steve Rodgers, Intel's executive vice president and general counsel, said he believed the U.S. government's conclusion that China was conducting genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups.
"I've read the State Department report. I've studied it, and I believe its conclusions," Rodgers said.
Other executives said they respected the U.S. government's conclusions but would not comment on the matter.
Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley, who chairs the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, accused the companies of assisting China in reaping "the rewards in prestige and propaganda," drawing a contrast to Hitler's 1936 Berlin Olympics.
"He was already engaged in horrific acts against his own citizens and worse was to come. But in this situation, it's worse than Berlin in 1936 because the genocide is already underway," Merkley said.
The executives represent the five U.S. companies with The Olympic Partner sponsorship commitments that run through the Beijing Games.
According to rights organizations, researchers, former residents and some U.S. politicians and officials, Chinese authorities have facilitated forced labor by detaining nearly a million Uyghurs and other primarily Muslim minorities in camps since 2016.
President Joe Biden's administration concurred with the earlier Trump administration's conclusion that the detention camps and other atrocities constituted to genocide.
China denies any wrongdoing, saying that it has established vocational training facilities to counteract extremism.