Dec 19, 2019 - World

Senators urge NBC to refuse to air 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

Photo: Minas Panagiotakis - International Skating Union/International Skating Union via Getty Images

Senators Rick Scott and Josh Hawley have called on NBCUniversal, which has broadcast rights for the Olympics, to refuse to air the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, according to a letter obtained exclusively by Axios.

Why it matters: Consider this the opening shot in the struggle between human rights advocates, who believe that a country currently operating concentration camps should not host the Olympics, and the Chinese Communist Party, which will defend its successful bid to host the 2022 games at all costs.

What they're saying: In a letter dated Dec. 19 and addressed to top NBC executives, Scott and Hawley point to China's "abysmal" human rights record.

  • By agreeing to air the Beijing Olympics, the senators write, NBC is "placing profits over principles and ensuring that China can be accepted into the international system even as it violates its basic rules and tenets."
  • The lawmakers also warn about China's mass surveillance regime, pointing to recent leaked government documents that reveal how the Chinese security state is using mass data collection for predictive policing and mass detention.
  • "We urge NBC to stand with us and request that the [International Olympic Committee] re-bid the 2022 Olympics or refuse to air the 2022 games."


  • The Chinese Communist Party has built a vast network of detention camps, where it holds over a million Muslim ethnic minorities in a sweeping attempt to stamp out their culture and religion.
  • Recent leaks of classified Chinese government documents revealing the inner workings of its mass detention camps have galvanized government officials in the U.S. and Europe to ramp up pressure on Beijing.

The bottom line: The run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics saw global protests against China's human rights abuses. Expect the 2022 Olympics to generate just as much controversy — though this time, China has far more economic and diplomatic leverage to push back.

Go deeper: Scoop... China tried to get World Bank to fund surveillance in Xinjiang

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Photo: Wolfgang Kumm/picture alliance via Getty Images

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Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Scott Eisen/Getty Images, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, Naohiko Hatta - Pool/Getty Images, and Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

Most U.S. presidential candidates identify China as a serious national security challenge, but they're short on details as to how they'd tackle the economic, technological and human rights threats posed by the world’s largest authoritarian power.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party is seeking to reshape the world in its own image and amass enough power to marginalize the United States and Western allies regardless of whether China is contending with President Trump for another four years — or one of his Democratic rivals.

We're entering a new golden age of China journalism

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party claims China's rise offers the world an alternative to western leadership and values. In the coming decade, journalism is vital to understanding exactly what kind of global leader China will be.

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