âPathetic and Disgracefulâ: Lawmakers Blast Coca-Cola, Visa, Airbnb for Supporting Beijing âGenocide Olympicsâ
Coca-Cola, Airbnb, Procter & Gamble, and Visaâall U.S. sponsors of the 2022 Beijing Olympicsâhave proudly declared that they support human rights globally. But that support is less clear when it comes to addressing the Chinese communist regimeâs gross rights violations. At a July 27 congressional hearing on corporate sponsorship of the Games, representatives from the U.S.-based sponsors declined to take a stance on whether they would support moving the Olympics to a different location or postponing them over the Chinese regimeâs human rights abuses. Allâwith the exception of a fifth witness, Intelâsaid they had no involvement in the site selection. âBut as a human being and as somebody as a corporation that believes in human rights, it seems to me that you have a moral responsibility to be very clear,â said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), noting the allegations of sexual assault, forced abortion and sterilization, and other torture committed inside concentration camps in Chinaâs Xinjiang Province. âIâm baffled and disappointed that you canât just say, âMove the game.ââ A woman holds a placard during a protest against Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics by Tibetan and Uyghur activists in front of the Olympics Museum in Lausanne as some 200 participants took part in the protest on June 23, 2021. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)Andrea Fairchild, senior vice president of global sponsorship strategy at Visa Inc., responded, âAs long as the governments are allowing the athletes to attend the games, we will be there to support and sponsor them.â Asked whether they agree with the U.S. governmentâs determination that the regime is committing genocide against the Uyghur population in Xinjiang, the only company representative to respond in the affirmative was Steve Rodgers, executive vice president and general counsel of Intel. âIâve read the State Department report. Iâve studied it, and I believe its conclusions,â Rodgers said, adding that Intel had no business operations in Xinjiang even before the January designation. The other four executives said they respected the governmentâs decision, but they refused to project their views. A placard showing barbed wire shaping the Olympics Rings next to a sign of the Olympics Museum during a protest organized by Tibetan and Uyghur activists against the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, in Lausanne, Switzerland, on June 23, 2021. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)Hypocrisy Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who praised Rodgers for his âstraight answer,â pronounced what he saw to be âthe most pathetic and disgraceful hearing in which Iâve participated in eight years.â âEvery one of you, with the exception, on occasion, of Mr. Rodgers, were sent here with orders not to say anything that could offend the Chinese Communist Party,â he said. David Holyoke, Airbnbâs head of the Olympics and Paralympics partnership, drew a rebuke from Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) for not being more vocal about Beijingâs denial of passports and identification documents to Uyghurs and Tibetans, which prevents them from traveling or finding accommodation. âYou are just completely absolving yourself of responsibility for being complicit in abject discrimination,â Malinowski said when the Airbnb executive said the companyâs âpolicies do not require hosts to violate local laws.â Rep. Tom Malinowski speaks as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on The Biden Administrationâs Priorities for U.S. Foreign Policy on Capitol Hill in Washington, on March 10, 2021. (Ken Cedeno-Pool/Getty Images)Coca-Cola fared no better. Multiple lawmakers criticized the contrast between the corporationâs silence on human rights abuses in China and its CEOâs open opposition to the newly enacted voting law in the firmâs home state of Georgia. Asked repeatedly whether the company would specifically condemn the regimeâs practice of holding people in concentration camps, Paul Lalli, global vice president for human rights at Coca-Cola, said, âWe respect all human rights,â without specifically naming China. âI just think this is stunning,â Malinowski said, adding that itâs âabsolutely clearâ that âthe only reasonâ for the companyâs reticence is to protect its profits in China. âYou are afraid of them in a way that you are not afraid of critics in the United States. I think thatâs shameful,â he told the Coca-Cola representative.