‘We know a genocide is being committed there’: US ambassador says China using an Uyghur athlete as Olympic torchbearer is effort to ‘distract us’

Chinese athletes Dinigeer Yilamujiang and Zhao Jiawen carry the Olympic torch at the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at the National Stadium.

China said a torchbearer at the Olympics opening ceremony was an Uyghur. 
The Uyghurs, a Muslim Turkic minority group, have been subject to human rights abuses in China. 
The US ambassador to the UN said it was meant to “distract” from the “genocide” in Xinjiang.

A US ambassador said China’s choice to have an Uyghur athlete as a torchbearer during the Olympic opening ceremony for the 2022 winter games was an attempt to “distract” from the human rights abuses against the Turkic Muslim minority group. 

“We’ve made our position very, very clear on the situation in China. This is not business as usual,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “We know that a genocide has been committed there.”

Dinigeer Yilamujiang, a cross-country skier, who the Chinese said is an Uyghur was chosen to light the Olympic Cauldron on Friday.

The choice to have Yilamujiang as a torchbearer comes as China faces criticism for human rights abuses of the minority group. 

On Sunday, Thomas-Greenfield told CNN that Yilamujiang’s presence at the Olympics as a torchbearer does not change China’s treatment of the Uyghurs or the US position on human rights abuses. 

“It is important that the audience that participated and witnessed this understand that this does not take away from what we know is happening on the ground there,” she said.

Human Rights Watch said the Chinese Communist Party has detained as many as one million Uyghur Muslims in hundreds of prisons and detention centers in Xinjiang and the surrounding region.

People who have been inside the centers — either as a visitor, employee, or inmate — have spoken of forced consumption of forbidden foods in Islam, such as pork, mass surveillance, and various other forms of psychological and physical torture.

“This is an effort by the Chinese to distract us from the real issue here at hand, that Uyghurs are being tortured, and Uyghurs are the victims of human rights violations by the Chinese, and we have to keep that front and center,” Thomas-Greenfield said. 

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