February 11, 2022

This week, U.S. athletes are participating in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China. I am so proud to hear that Alta native Jaelin Kauf brought home a silver medal in the women’s moguls! While I’m excited for every single athlete who has spent years training for this opportunity to compete, I’m deeply concerned about continued human rights abuses by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

For generations, the CCP has held an iron grip of power on the Chinese people. When dissidents step out of line, they disappear. When minority groups become a threat, the CCP enacts a full-scale genocide against those groups, as evidenced by the treatment of the Uyghur people in China. They exert undue influence over Taiwan and Hong Kong, and they are trying to spread their influence to countries around the globe. We are naive if we believe that their endgame isn’t the same for countries outside of their borders as it is for the Chinese people. 

I’m concerned for the safety of our athletes who have traveled to Beijing to compete. Not only their physical safety, but also their virtual safety. Just last week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi cautioned American athletes about “angering” the Chinese government. Essentially, she told our athletes to not speak out against China’s human rights abuses because their safety cannot be guaranteed.  

I’m also deeply concerned about their virtual safety. The CCP is constantly working to find ways to infiltrate American cyberspace. Those who have travelled to China know to be careful about where they plug in their phones, and to be cautious about what WiFi they connect to, but more recently, the CCP has made attempts to infiltrate the financial information of its people in addition to those who travel to their country. 

Last year, the CCP announced its intention to launch a digital yuan. This is a digital representation of the Chinese yuan, issued by the Central Bank of China. Those using the digital yuan will keep them in a digital wallet on a user’s phone, giving the Central Bank of China, and by extension, the CCP, access to the user’s financial information and phone. I am concerned that the CCP will use this access to surveil American athletes and infiltrate further systems. 

I, along with Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), wrote a letter to the U.S. Olympic Committee urging them to block American athletes from using the digital yuan to make sure their privacy was protected from the CCP. 

My concerns stand, but I will still be cheering the American athletes on throughout the games. However, it is critical we continue to keep pressure on the CCP and be mindful of the scope and reach the country continues to have the world over.