Panel recommends that U.S. officials not go to China's Olympics

WASHINGTON, April 21 (Reuters) - A U.S. government commission on Wednesday urged the Biden administration to not send officials to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, citing religious persecution including China’s repression of Uighur Muslims, which Washington has labeled genocide.

President Joe Biden’s administration signaled earlier this year that it had no plans to bar American athletes from participating in the Beijing Games.

But activist calls have been mounting for a coordinated diplomatic boycott in which athletes would compete but government representatives would shun the Games. Some have also made a case for a possible postponement or relocation of the event scheduled for next February.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in an annual report encouraged Washington to continue to impose targeted financial and visa sanctions on Chinese government agencies and officials responsible for “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations.”

It also recommended that the U.S. government “publicly express concerns about Beijing hosting the 2022 Winter Olympic Games and state that U.S. government officials will not attend the games if the Chinese government’s crackdown on religious freedom continues.”

Activists and U.N. rights experts say at least a million Muslims have been detained in camps in China’s Xinjiang region.

They, and some Western politicians, accuse China of using torture, forced labor and sterilizations, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken upheld an earlier Trump administration determination that the abuses constituted genocide.

China has repeatedly denied all accusations of abuse and says its camps offer vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.

Earlier this month, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States had not discussed a joint boycott with allies and partners.

Nury Turkel, a Uighur American activist and member of the U.S. commission, told Reuters that the International Olympic Committee was allowing Beijing to normalize its behavior by granting it the Olympics platform. “It will be political suicide, I would think, for any politician with a right mind and a decent political stance to attend this because of the ongoing genocide,” Turkel said.

In March, the Chinese government sanctioned Gayle Manchin and Tony Perkins, the chair and vice chair of the commission, over the panel’s recommendations that the U.S. government and its partners sanction Chinese officials for abuses in Xinjiang. (Reporting by Michael Martina and Simon Lewis; Editing by Mary Milliken and Jonathan Oatis)