White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that President Biden disagrees with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s view that American athletes should keep their mouths shut instead of criticizing China during the ongoing Winter Olympics in Beijing.
“Does the White House agree with Speaker Nancy Pelosi that American athletes shouldn’t speak out against Beijing for their own safety?” reporter Emily Goodin of the Daily Mail asked at Psaki’s regular briefing.
“Well, I know we saw those comments, obviously, last week, if I remember correctly,” Psaki began.
“The president’s view is that first we support our athletes 100 percent. Yay,” added the press secretary, a self-described “Olympics-obsessed person.”
“All athletes have the right to freely express themselves, and that is the case in Beijing at the Olympics. It is the case anywhere. They will make those choices as individuals,” Psaki went on. “It’s the responsibility of China to live up to its own obligations to maintain a safe environment for all athletes at these Games. The world will be watching. But we leave it up to individuals. We certainly support the right to peaceful protest.”
Pelosi (D-Calif.) stated twice last week that American athletes should bite their tongue before criticizing the China-ruling Communist Party and its long record of human rights abuses.
“If we do not speak out against human rights violations in China because of commercial interests, we lose all moral authority to speak out against human rights violations anywhere,” the Speaker said Thursday before imploring athletes: “Do not risk incurring the anger of the Chinese government, because they are ruthless.”
Pelosi then doubled down Friday at her weekly news conference, telling reporters: “As I wish the athletes well, I do not encourage them to speak out against the Chinese government there because I fear for their safety if they do.
“[To] remove all doubt about why I said they shouldn’t speak out, it’s because I fear for their safety,” she reiterated.
The US slapped sanctions on Beijing last March for its campaign of rape and forced labor against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, where members of the minority group are held under horrendous conditions while undergoing systematic torture and forced sterilizations.
“Amid growing international condemnation, the [People’s Republic of China] continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement announcing the sanctions.
The 2022 Winter Olympics continue through Feb. 20.