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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.

1 hour ago - World

U.S. will give Russians written response to NATO demands, Blinken says

Blinken and Lavrov shake hands in Geneva. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed after a meeting with his Russian counterpart on Friday that the U.S. will provide written answers to Russia's security demands next week.

Why it matters: Russia claims to be waiting for "concrete answers" to its demands that NATO rule out further expansion and roll back its presence in eastern Europe before deciding its next steps on Ukraine. But the U.S. and NATO have called those proposals "non-starters," and Friday's meeting offered no breakthroughs, so it's unclear how written answers might change the equation.

More surprises await scientists at Antarctica's "Doomsday Glacier"

Cliffs along the edge of the Thwaites Ice Shelf in West Antarctica. Photo: James Yungel/NASA

Researchers like David Holland, an atmospheric scientist at New York University, are in a race to understand the fate of a massive glacier in West Antarctica that has earned a disquieting nickname: "The Doomsday Glacier."

Why it matters: Studies show the Thwaites Glacier (its official name) could already be on an irreversible course to melt during the next several decades to centuries, freeing up enough inland ice to raise global sea levels by at least several feet.