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U.S. Ambassador Says China Was Attempting to 'Distract Us' By Picking Uyghur to Light Olympic Flame

Michael Reynolds/Pool via AP

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Sunday that China was looking "to distract" the U.S. from its human rights abuses of Uyghurs when it made the decision to have a member of the Uyghur community help deliver the flame in the 2022 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony.


Thomas-Greenfield told host Jake Tapper on CNN's "State of the Union" that the situation in China is "not business as usual" and "we know that a genocide has been committed there."

"We've made clear that crimes against humanity are being committed in China. So it is important that the audience who participated and witnessed this understand that this does not take away from what we know is happening on the ground there," Thomas-Greenfield said of the Uyghur participating in the Olympic ceremony.

"We have to ensure that we continue to raise these concerns that are occurring in China at the moment," she continued.

Thomas-Greenfield emphasized that the decision by China to have a Uyghur help light the Olympic torch was "an effort by the Chinese to distract us from the real issue here at hand that Uyghurs are being tortured."

"Uyghurs are the victims of human rights violations by the Chinese," Thomas-Greenfield explained. "We have to keep that front and center."


Asked about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) urging American athletes not to speak out against China while at the Olympics over the fear of retribution, Thomas-Greenfield said that she hopes China would not punish any U.S. athlete

"We support our athletes and we think our athletes are there to perform in the areas that they have been preparing for four years, and we would hope that the Chinese would not take any actions," she said. "But I will be clear that our goal is to make sure our athletes are safe, and we're doing everything possible to ensure that," she said, adding that she can "reassure" American athletes that the U.S. government "will be standing with them in China and we will be there to protect them."

The U.S. is one of several countries to hold diplomatic boycotts of the Olympics over China's human rights abuses of the Uyghur population

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