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U.S. lawmakers urge IOC to delay or move China's 2022 Winter Olympics

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The giant Olympic rings, which are being temporarily removed for maintenance, are seen behind Japan's national flag, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at the waterfront area at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo, Japan August 6, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

WASHINGTON, July 23 (Reuters) - A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers on Friday called on the International Olympic Committee to postpone the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and relocate the event unless China ends what the United States deems an ongoing genocide against Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups.

Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Jim McGovern were joined by Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Chris Smith in a letter saying that no Olympics should be held in a country "whose government is committing genocide and crimes against humanity."

"We have seen no evidence that the IOC has taken any steps to press the Chinese government to change its behavior," the lawmakers – all commissioners on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China – said in the letter addressed to IOC President Thomas Bach.

"The IOC is on course to set a dark precedent where the behavior of future Olympic host governments is unconstrained by the international spotlight provided by the Olympic Games," they wrote.

The IOC has the ability to postpone the Olympic Games, they said, as the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan was delayed four months before the scheduled opening until this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The IOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It has previously said that it is not a "super world government" that can resolve political issues in China ahead of the Games, scheduled for February.

Rights groups, researchers, former residents and some Western officials have said Xinjiang authorities have facilitated forced labor and other abuses by detaining about a million Uyghurs and other primarily Muslim minorities since 2016.

China denies wrongdoing, and has said it has established vocational training centers in Xinjiang to address religious extremism.

Some U.S. lawmakers have been increasingly vocal in advocating an Olympic boycott or venue change, and have criticized American corporations, arguing that their silence about such abuses abets the Chinese government.

President Joe Biden's administration has signaled that it has no plans to bar American athletes from participating in the Beijing Games, but it has said it would discuss a common approach with allies. read more

Reporting by Michael Martina and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Will Dunham

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