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Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley

You have put in the hard work and shown remarkable commitment, grit and skill in order to get to this point in your athletic careers. To be named a U.S. Olympian is one of the world’s greatest honors, and your fellow Americans are excited to cheer you on and celebrate your incredible accomplishments. Above all, we hope this experience is a happy and memorable time for you and your families.

While we want to congratulate you on making it this far, we do think it’s important to recognize a few other important factors related to the host country. This year’s Winter Olympics is being held in a high-risk and potentially dangerous political environment. No one traveling to China will have the privacy and freedom he or she is accustomed to in the United States or other Western countries. Additionally, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has made it clear it will defer to Chinese domestic law when it comes to athletes’ fundamental human rights.

In November, Chinese Olympian Peng Shuai was silenced and disappeared. She was silenced by the same government that is hosting the Olympic Games in which you will participate. This forced disappearance, the Chinese government’s ongoing genocide against Uyghurs, its other severe human rights abuses and crackdowns, and the IOC’s unwillingness to put human rights ahead of its lucrative relationship with Beijing are important issues that cannot be ignored.

These Games will put a spotlight on China, a totalitarian state in which the government has near full control over all business, media, telecommunications, courts of law and even international events. The Chinese government, controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, has set up the world’s most advanced and intrusive surveillance system. It has cameras that cover every inch of Beijing, and it includes government-created software that tracks every single thing you do on your phone in China, or while using Chinese websites and apps here at home. This invasive system is not for the general public’s benefit. It is designed to take away individual privacy and undermine basic human rights, like freedom of expression, religion, assembly and speech to ensure total compliance with the CCP.

Again, congratulations – know that America is fully behind you. Please be careful, and be aware.

To read on the USA Today website, click here.