Meeks, McCaul, Malinowski, Wagner, Bera, Chabot, Castro, Waltz Call on IOC to Reaffirm Freedom of Speech for Athletes

Washington, DC – Today, Representatives Gregory W. Meeks, Michael McCaul, Tom Malinowski and Ann Wagner - Chair, Ranking Member, Vice Chair and Vice Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee – Ami Bera and Steve Chabot – Chair and Ranking Member of the Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia, and Nonproliferation Subcommittee – Joaquin Castro, Chair of the International Development, International Organizations and Global Corporate Social Impact Subcommittee, and Mike Waltz, Member of the House Armed Services Committee, issued the following statement regarding recent statements made by Olympics officials pertaining to limitations on athletes’ freedom to speak during this year’s games in Beijing:

“The International Olympic Committee (IOC)—and its president Thomas Bach—must immediately clarify that free speech by athletes is absolutely guaranteed at the Olympics. 2022 Olympics officials have stated recently that athletes must limit their speech on human rights issues in line with domestic People’s Republic of China (PRC) laws or face ‘certain punishment’. This directly contradicts commitments made by the IOC at an October meeting with members of the U.S. Congress, where IOC representatives provided explicit assurances of their commitment to protect athletes if they are prevented from speaking out freely on human rights during the Beijing games. 

“While the IOC has in the past prohibited political statements during competitions or medal ceremonies, Rule 50.2 of the Olympic Charter explicitly states that athletes and participants are free to speak on sensitive matters in broadcast and media centers, in interviews, on social media, and during press conferences. That freedom extends to issues such as the PRC’s genocide against Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minorities, repressive surveillance practices, or the dismantling of freedoms in Hong Kong. Given the latest troubling comments by the Beijing Organizing Committee, we call on the IOC to issue a public reaffirmation of its commitment to protect free speech during the Games, and to clarify what actions it will take to protect athletes if the organizing committee or local authorities try to silence them.”