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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."

Background:

  • 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

Go deeper

Oct 13, 2020 - World

As Taiwan's profile rises, so does risk of conflict with China

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Taiwan's success in fighting the coronavirus, along with high-profile U.S. support in recent months, has raised the nation's profile on the international stage. But Beijing views this new prominence as a serious provocation.

Why it matters: Military conflict between China and Taiwan could embroil not just Asia but also the U.S. and other outside players in a larger conflagration.

SoCalGas agrees to $1.8 billion settlement for 2015 gas blowout

An evacuee with a Save Porter Ranch sign outside Southern California Gas Company's Aliso Canyon gate in Porter Ranch in January 2016 as the gas leak continued. Photos: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Southern California Gas Company and its parent company announced Monday they've agreed to pay up to $1.8 billion in settlement claims over the 2015 Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility blowout.

Why it matters: Some 100,000 tons of methane, ethane and toxic chemicals poured into the air for 112 days, forcing over 8,000 families to evacuate from their Los Angeles-area homes and sickening many with headaches, nausea and nosebleeds, per the L.A. Times.

Updated 4 hours ago - World

North Korea fires short-range missile to sea, slams "hostile" U.S. policy

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Photo: API/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said Tuesday that North Korea's military had fired a short-range missile toward its eastern sea, per AP.

Why it matters: North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations defended the latest launch in remarks to the UN General Assembly, demanding the U.S. and South Korea end their "hostile policy" against the country.