Chinese government and media assertions that the United States is secretly working to undermine the Beijing Olympic Games are false, the State Department said Sunday.
“We were not and are not coordinating a global campaign regarding participation at the Olympics,” a State Department spokesman told The Washington Times.
“U.S. athletes — and all athletes — are entitled to freely express themselves in line with the spirit and charter of the Olympics,” the spokesman added. “We call on the [the People’s Republic of China] to respect fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of expression.”
The comments followed a report in the Chinese Communist Party-affiliated outlet China Daily that asserted the United States was paying athletes attending the Olympic Games to sabotage the global sporting event.
The report, quoting Chinese sources, stated that the U.S. plan is to “incite” athletes from around the world to voice discontent toward China, participate “passively” in the Games and refuse to take part in the Olympics.
The alleged plan also calls for compensating athletes and protecting their reputations for voicing opposition to human rights abuses and genocide in western China against ethnic Uyghurs.
The plot was said to be the work of unspecified “anti-China forces” in the United States to politicize the Games.
“The plot by anti-China forces to use the athletes as a tool of political manipulation is more than malicious and dirty, and will undoubtedly be cast aside by the international community and athletes from around the world,” the report stated.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters that the China Daily report had “exposed the real intention of some Americans to politicize sports and to sabotage and interfere with the Beijing Winter Olympics.”
The spokesman condemned the idea of buying off athletes to cause trouble for China at the Games.
The United States in December ordered U.S. diplomats and officials to boycott what critics have dubbed the “Genocide Games,” set to begin this week in Beijing.
Nine other nations have joined in the diplomatic boycott, which does not prevent athletes from taking part in the Olympics.
Athletes attending the competition have been warned that Chinese authorities could take action against them for voicing criticism of the Chinese Communist Party system.
In China, it is illegal to criticize the party and those who do face lengthy prison terms.
Earlier this month, snowboarder Shaun White, a member of the U.S. Olympic team, posed for a photograph online with Tibetan activists and the Tibetan flag.
The group Students for a Free Tibet stated in an open letter to athletes that those taking part in the Games to meet with them to learn the full extent of human rights abuses in China.
“The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is responsible for some of the worst human rights atrocities of our generation: the genocide of Uyghurs, the coerced separation of an estimated one million Tibetan children from their parents through 21st-century residential schools, and the severe crackdown on democracy and press freedom in Hong Kong,” the letter said.
“These are not just isolated events happening in the news or facts for us to recite; they are the lived experiences facing our loved ones every single day.”
The students asked the athletes to “stand in solidarity with us and our communities — some of the most highly oppressed peoples in the world today.”
“We are asking you to take a stand against the Genocide Games,” the letter said.
• Bill Gertz can be reached at email@example.com.
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