The Congressional-Executive Commission on China held a hearing this Tuesday, 27 July 2021, with executives of the companies that will sponsor the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games. Each was asked whether they condemned the genocide against the Uighurs that both the Trump and Biden administrations ratified.
Broadly speaking, none of the executives gave a straight answer, and all but one of them evaded giving a direct response, saying that their companies respect human rights but that it is not within their duty to talk about what is happening in China and that that is a task for the U.S. government.
“I’ve been listening to all the testimonies here and this is one of the most pathetic and disgraceful hearings in which I participated,” Senator Cotton said when it was his turn to speak.
“Is clear to me that every one of you were sent here probably directly by your CEOs and your Board not to say a single crossed word about the Chinese Communist Party,” the Republican senator added.
Present at the virtual hearing were David Holyoke, Head of Olympic and Paralympic Partnerships, Airbnb; Paul Lalli, Global Vice President, Human Rights, The Coca-Cola Company; Steven R. Rodgers, Executive Vice President, and General Counsel, Intel Corporation; Sean Mulvaney, Senior Director, Global Government Relations and Public Policy, The Procter & Gamble Company; and Andrea Fairchild, Senior Vice President, Global Sponsorship Strategy, Visa Inc.
During his last days as Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo declared that the abuses carried out by the communist regime in Xinjiang province against the Uighurs constituted genocide. Under the new Democratic administration, current Secretary of State Anthony Blinken affirmed the genocide designation, bringing both Republicans and Democrats into an agreement on the issue.
Senator Tom Cotton focused his questions on the Coca Cola company, given that earlier this year, as a way of protesting against legislation passed by the state of Georgia to, among other things, require voters to show ID when voting, the company decided to call for a boycott of the state government.
During the boycott call, Coca-Cola, said Cotton, has stated: “‘We will continue to stand up for what is right in Georgia and across the United States.'” The senator asked, “so Coca-Cola will not stand up for what is right outside the US?”
“We stand for what is right across the world, we apply the same human rights principles in the U.S. that we do across the world…” replied Mr. Paul Lalli.
Notably annoyed with the executive’s lack of commitment, Cotton asked, “Do you believe the Chinese Communist Party is committing genocide against the Uighur people?”
Evading the answer, Lalli replied, “We are aware of the reports of the State Department on this issue… we respect those reports…” by which time the senator interrupted him.
“You refuse to say a single word… that will cost you one bit of market share inside of mainland China.” said Cotton.
Tom Cotton proceeded to pursue the same line of questioning with the Coca Cola executive, emphasizing that if the company is involved in politics in the U.S., why can’t it even issue a statement or ask the International Olympic Committee to relocate the Games because of abuses committed by the Chinese regime.
Eventually, when Lalli continued to evade answering directly, Cotton again asserted that his company fears retaliation from the Chinese government.
“I think you are afraid of the Chinese Communist Party, you are afraid of what they will do to your company if you say a single word like for instance saying that both the Biden and the Trump administrations are correct when they say that China is committing genocide against its own people,” the Republican asserted.
The senator proceeded to ask all the executives the same question, asking them if they agreed that the Chinese communist regime was committing genocide against the Uighurs.
All the executives, except Intel’s Mr. Rodgers, gave evasive answers, stating that they respect human rights but prefer not to comment on the issue.
In Intel’s case, Mr. Rodgers said he read the State Department report and believes the conclusions are true.
A bitter anecdote
Cotton closed his participation with a ‘bitter’ story about Coca-Cola.
“I used to drink a lot of Coca Cola when I was a kid and young. I stopped drinking it when I joined the Army. One night, in Rangers school when you get by on just a few hundred calories a day, we were able to buy hot dogs and cokes. And I bought them because I was so hungry.”
“I took a drink of the coke and spit it out because I had had one in two years and couldn’t tolerate the taste of it. That’s about the feeling I have today about your testimony and about all of the witness’ testimonies in this pathetic hearing.”