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'politically neutral'

2022 Olympics: IOC president offers 'rare' criticism of China over official's comments on Taiwan, Xinjiang

The president of the International Olympic Committee — Thomas Bach — offered what is viewed as a "rare" criticism of a Chinese Olympic official during a news conference on Friday, The New York Times reports.

Bach's comments arrived after a spokesperson for the Beijing Olympics on Thursday issued remarks "that seemed to violate Olympic rules about political neutrality," the Times writes.

"We were in touch with [Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games] immediately after this press conference," Bach said Friday, "and both organizations, BOCOG and the IOC., have restated the unequivocal commitment to remain politically neutral as it is required by the Olympic charter."

On Thursday, Beijing Olympics spokesperson Yan Jiarong was asked whether athletes from Taiwan — who compete under the name Chinese Taipei — would march in Sunday's closing ceremony. "What I want to say is that there is only one China in the world," Yan responded, per the Times. "Taiwan is an indivisible part of China." 

Though Taiwan in self-ruled, the Chinese government considers the island part of Chinese territory. 

Yan also alleged that questions relating to reported genocide and forced labor in China's Xinjiang region "are very based on lies," she said. "Some authorities have already disputed such false information with a lot of solid evidence." 

The comments were likely "in violation of Rule 50 of the Olympic charter, which prohibits any sort of 'demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda' at the Games," the Times explains.

Though Bach did not name Yan or her comments directly in his rebuke, "even a mild criticism amounted to some of the strongest words he has issued on China." Read more at The New York Times.