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The stage for awarding ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. Photo: Han Haidan/China News Service via Getty Images

A bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter Wednesday to International Olympic Committee president President Thomas Bach asking him to justify the IOC's ties with two Chinese companies that use cotton produced in Xinjiang.

Why it matters: The letter from the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) notes that "there is a worrisome possibility that IOC personnel or others attending the 2022 Olympic Games will be wearing clothing contaminated by forced labor.”

Of note: Congress recently passed and President Biden signed a bill banning all imports from the Chinese region of Xinjiang unless there is clear evidence they were not made with forced labor.

The big picture: The Chinese government has been accused of carrying out genocide against Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

  • The letter says that Xinjiang cotton "is synonymous with forced labor and the systematic repression that takes place there."
  • The letter is signed by CECC chair Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and co-chair Rep. James P. McGovern (D-Mass.), as well as ranking member Christopher Smith (R-N.J.).

State of play: The letter notes that sportwear company Anta Sports and textiles company Hengyuanxiang Group (HYX Group) both continue to use cotton produced in Xinjiang.

  • The letter cites reporting from Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian and Shawna Chen that the IOC had contracted HYX Group to supply uniforms for IOC members and staff during the Games, and that HYX had given the IOC a "certificate of origin" stating that the cotton used came from outside China.
  • Now, the lawmakers have asked the IOC to make the "certificate of origin" given to them by HYX Group public.
  • They also asked that the IOC to "explain the assurances" they received from Anta Sports that their products are not made with forced labor, and to explain why the IOC found those assurances reliable.

Go deeper

Dec 6, 2021 - World

U.S. announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

An Olympic-themed sculpture in Beijing on Dec. 1. Photo: Hou Yu/China News Service via Getty Images

The U.S. announced Monday that it will not send officials to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in protest of human rights abuses committed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Why it matters: The diplomatic boycott — which won't prevent American athletes from competing — marks a major escalation between the U.S. and China amid already heightened tensions over the CCP's treatment of Muslim minorities, military threats to Taiwan and economic tariffs.

Nov 16, 2021 - World

Olympics sponsors caught between U.S. and China

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Companies that do business in China — especially Olympics sponsors — are concerned Beijing will use the 2022 Winter Games as a loyalty test.

Why it matters: China's leaders have become adept at silencing criticism from U.S. companies that might otherwise condemn the country's human rights record — and the Chinese government has been able to host prestigious global events like the Olympics while committing rights violations with impunity.

Updated 6 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

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