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What Mitt Romney thinks about boycotting the 2022 Olympics in Beijing

New York congressman urging President Joe Biden to boycott 2022 Winter Games in China

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, appears before the start of a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs & Senate Rules and Administration joint hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021, to examine the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney doesn’t favor boycotting the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing as a fellow Republican congressman is urging President Joe Biden to do.

“I’m happy if President Biden himself boycotts the Olympics in Beijing. I don’t want our athletes to suffer. They’ve planned their whole lives to be ready at this point for this competition, so I don’t want to do things that hurt our athletes,” he said.

Romney, R-Utah, made the comments Tuesday in an interview on The New York Times’ DealBook DC Policy Project.

Rep. John Kato, R-N.Y., sent a letter to Biden on Monday saying the United States must stand up to the Chinese government’s suspected human rights violations against the Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic group that has historically lived in China’s westernmost province

“The actions taken by the Chinese Communist Party are antithetical to the values of both the United States and its allies around the world,” Katko wrote. “Participation in an Olympics held in a country who is openly committing genocide not only undermines those shared values but casts a shadow on the promise for all those who seek free and just societies.”

Romney, who headed the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, said he’s working with Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., to show the United States’ displeasure with China related to the Olympics.

“We’re going to see if we can’t find some ways to make our concerns about China very, very clear without punishing our athletes,” he said.

Those would include encouraging Americans to not travel to China as spectators and framing media coverage in the U.S. to show what’s happening to the Uighurs and people in Hong Kong as part of the Olympics broadcast, Romney said.

“But actually penalizing our athletes, I think it’s kind of an unfair burden for them to have to carry,” he said.

While there was speculation last month the Summer Games in Tokyo would be canceled this year due to COVID-19, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach left no doubt that they will go on as scheduled.

Romney said those Games must also go on because of the athletes.

“Hold the Tokyo Olympic Games. Athletes have trained a lifetime to be at their peak. Limit in-person spectators — most of us watch the Games on TV anyway. The world awaits the inspiration of great competition and global sportsmanship,” he tweeted in January.

China, though, poses a more complicated political problem than COVID-19.

The Chinese Communist Party has allegedly subjected the Uighurs, who live primarily in Xinjiang province, to mass persecution, which could be genocide.

“Mr. President, the evidence is clear — the CCP is deliberately and systematically working to eliminate an entire population within its own borders,” Katko, the ranking member of the House Homeland Security, wrote in the letter.

Katko urged Biden to work with other nations to hold the 2022 Winter Games in a country that values the Olympic charter, which calls for sport to promote a “peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”

Romney has said China poses the greatest threat to freedom, human rights and free enterprise, and will be the principal challenge facing the U.S. in the 21st century. He introduced legislation to protect the economy and national security. He also has called for sanctions against China over alleged forced sterilizations and other coercive measures used to curtail family size among Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.

On Tuesday, Romney and three other GOP senators urged the Biden administration to implement a proposed rule requiring universities to disclose their relationships with Confucius institutes, which are funded by the Chinese Communist Party. The institutes are public educational partnerships between colleges and universities in China and colleges and universities in other countries.

The senators say they have significant concerns about the CCP’s “nefarious” actions and that it’s “critically” important for Americans to understand that its propaganda arm runs Confucius institutes through the Chinese government’s Ministry of Education.

The Utah House passed a resolution last week encouraging closure of all Confucius institutes on university campuses due to national concerns over China’s efforts to conduct espionage through the programs.

There are two Confucius institutes in Utah. The University of Utah is already in the process of shutting its program down, and Southern Utah University is open to closing its down as well.