US companies advertising at Winter Olympics 2022 are ‘sponsoring’ genocide in China, US official says

Nury Turkel argues best way to take on China's human rights abuses is through economic repercussion

Corporate sponsors pour hundreds of millions of dollars to advertise during the Winter Olympics in Beijing, but the vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has argued this equates to "sponsoring" genocide.  

Nury Turkel, a Uyghur American lawyer appointed to the top job by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in 2021, said Americans need to wake up when it comes to where they spend their money.

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A general view the Beijing Olympic Tower on Jan. 16, 2022, in Beijing, China.

A general view the Beijing Olympic Tower on Jan. 16, 2022, in Beijing, China.  (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images / Getty Images)

"More than 80 global brands have been using slave labor and flooding global supply chains with tainted products coming from Xinjiang," Turkel, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told FOX Business. "And these companies are sponsoring this genocide."

"In a way, American people are funding this genocide through their investment, through their consumerism," he added.

Five of the 13 top sponsors for the 2022 Olympics are American-owned, including Airbnb, Coca-Cola, Intel, Proctor & Gamble and Visa. 

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
KO THE COCA-COLA CO. 64.70 +0.40 +0.62%
INTC INTEL CORP. 44.55 +1.07 +2.46%
ABNB AIRBNB INC. 120.50 +6.20 +5.42%

More than 90 countries are participating in the Olympics this year, but these top-tier sponsors are able to slap the iconic rings on their products that have a global reach.

Coca-Cola, for example sells, its products – which include a variety of sodas, sports drinks and bottled water – in more than 200 countries. 

Airbnb stood by its decision to sponsor the games and spokesman Christopher Nulty told Fox Business, "Our unique nine-year partnership with the IOC is not a traditional sponsorship organized around individual Games, but rather, a long-term partnership organized around the economic empowerment of individual athletes, including providing housing to support their training and a grant program to help with travel needs."

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has faced steep criticism from lawmakers, human rights groups and international athletes for allowing the games to once again be hosted in China, despite its known human rights violations. 

The U.S. condemned China’s targeted actions to arbitrarily detain, torture, conduct forced sterilization, sexually assault and disappear Uyghurs in Xinjiang as genocide in January 2021.

Diplomatic boycott bans of the international Games by the U.S. and allied nations, like the United Kingdom and Canada, have created even more friction between the East and West during an already tumultuous time. 

But apart from geopolitical turmoil, Turkel said he is concerned China’s human rights abuses could escalate during the Games.

"I worry that they will use this global event to ratchet up the pressure…and intensify surveillance. I worry that they will use this event, as they often do, to round up more people," he said, explaining China could do this under the guise of alleged security concerns. 

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Student activists, some wearing masks with the colors of the pro-independence East Turkistan flag, shout slogans during a rally to protest the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

Student activists, some wearing masks with the colors of the pro-independence East Turkistan flag, shout slogans during a rally to protest the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana, File / AP Newsroom)

The USCIRF vice-chair said that if the international community is serious in trying to stop gross human rights abuses in China, it needs to hit the CCP where it hurts – its economy.  

"The business community is complicit in the ongoing genocide," Turkel said. But he also pointed out that legislating how commercial entities can conduct business with China is a bipartisan issue. 

Congress has passed legislation that clamps down on products coming from Xinjiang under both President Biden and his predecessor, former President Trump.

But he said more needs to be done.

"More than 70% of Americans demand a strong human rights policy with respect to China," he said in reference to a 2021 Pew Research poll. "Politicians and the business community cannot ignore this."

The human rights advocate said he urges the American public to take the issue head-on and stop consuming products made by businesses with ties to Xinjiang. 

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"American consumers…need to stop buying products made by slave labor," Turkel said. "This is how we can force the CCP regime to pay attention." 

"Their public image, their economic interests are a paramount concern for the Chinese government," he added. 

FOX Business could not immediately reach the U.S. companies sponsoring the Olympic Games for comment.