Feb 6, 2022 - Sports

U.S. ambassador calls Uyghur Olympic torchbearer an effort by China to "distract us"

The Chinese government's decision to have an Uyghur athlete help light the Olympic cauldron was an attempt to "distract" from the government's human rights abuses, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday.

Why it matters: The U.S., as well as several foreign parliaments, have recognized the Chinese government's campaign of mass detention, surveillance, forced labor and forced sterilization against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang as genocide.

Catch up quick: Dinigeer Yilamujiang, who the Chinese government says has Uyghur roots, was one of the torchbearers during Friday's opening ceremony.

What they're saying: "We've made our position very, very clear on the situation in China. This is not business as usual," Thomas-Greenfield said. "We know that a genocide has been committed there."

  • "It is important that the audience that participated and witnessed this understand that this does not take away from what we know is happening on the ground there."
  • "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."

Worth noting: The appearance of an Uyghur in the opening ceremony also drew condemnation from the World Uyghur Congress, which called the move "shocking and hugely insensitive," per the Guardian.

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