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Sen. Jeff Merkley says it is 'shameful' that UN Secretary-General António Guterres will attend the Beijing Olympics

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Johannes Simon/Getty Images

Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon decried it as "shameful" that United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres is planning to show up at the Beijing Olympics this month.

Guterres said last month that he plans "to be present in the opening," according to Reuters.

Merkley said that Guterres could courageously use his presence as a platform to highlight China's human rights abuses, condemn the "surveillance state," or to declare that the International Olympic Committee has made athletes "pawns in China's propaganda machine" and demand that they should have complete freedom of speech — but the senator said he does not expect the UN official to take any of those bold stands.

"The secretary-general considers the Olympic Games as an important expression of unity, mutual respect and cooperation between different cultures, religions and ethnicities," deputy press secretary for the secretary-general Farhan Haq told Politico via email. "The secretary-general is hopeful that the present contacts between the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Chinese Mission in Geneva will allow for the invitation to the High Commissioner to visit China, including Xinjiang, to lead to a credible mission after the Olympics."

The U.S. previously announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Olympics.

"U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the PRC's egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply can't do that," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in December.

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