At a Tuesday hearing on corporate sponsorship of the Beijing 2022 Olympics, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton laid the hammer down on Coca-Cola’s Paul Lalli, the company’s Global Vice President for Human Rights on the company’s decision to sponsor the Chinese Olympics next year.
In the wake of reports that the country has been committing human rights violations against Uyghurs and other minority groups in Xinjiang, numerous corporations – Coca-Cola included – have come under pressure from human rights groups and lawmakers for their continued investments in China.
Cotton grilled the Coca-Cola executive, asking him why the company refused to speak out against the Chinese communist government and sponsor what Cotton dubbed the “Genocide Olympics,” while they simultaneously weigh in on American policies in their vocal opposition to Georgia’s election reform laws.
Cotton posted the back-and-forth on social media.
“So your company said at the time that we will continue to stand up for what is right in Georgia and across the United States,” began Cotton. “So we did take from your, uh, that statement at the time that Coca-Cola will not stand up for what is right outside the United States, because that’s what it sounds like this morning in this testimony.”
“No Senator, we stand up for what is right across the world,” replied the Coca-Cola executive. “We apply the same human rights principles in the United States that we do across the world.”
“Do you believe that the Chinese communist party is committing genocide against the Uyghur people?” Cotton asked.
“We’re aware of the reports of the State Department on this issue, as well as other departments of the U S government. We respect those reports that continue to inform our program as do reports from civil society,” Lalli said.
“Under questioning from Senator Merkley and Representative McGovern and Representative Chris Smith, every single one of you refuse to say a single word by all appearances that will cost you one bit of market share inside of mainland China. Mr. Lalli, for instance, you were asked if Coca-Cola would call for the IOC to delay the Chinese Olympics to give a chance for them to be rebid or for China to stop its genocide against its own people. And you said that Coca-Cola quote – I think this is your exact words – quote: ‘doesn’t have a say’, end quote. So can you tell me why Coca-Cola doesn’t have a say in whether it sponsors that genocide Olympics next year, but it does have a say in how the state of Georgia runs election laws?”
“Senator, what I stated was that we did not have a say in the selection of the host city, nor on whether an Olympics is postponed or relocated,” replied the executive.
“Yeah. So you don’t… but you could just make a statement,” rebutted Cotton. “Your CEO could saddle up the same moral high horse that he got on with Georgia passed election law and write a letter to the IOC and ask him to. Anybody can do that. As an American citizen that’s his right under the Constitution.”
Lalli: As I stated we are most engaged on policy issues here at home. But we are clear in our respect for human rights globally.
Cotton: Can you explain to me why James Quincy will denounce a democratically elected legislatures laws, but he will not simply say that the IOC should consider rebidding its Olympics or that Coca-Cola should consider sponsoring the genocide Olympics. What’s the difference there?
Lalli: Our role as a sponsor is to support and follow the athletes.
Cotton: So you’re sponsoring the genocide Olympics. You are spending millions of dollars to sponsor the genocide Olympics. Yet you will not opine on any matter about it, yet you will stick your nose and the Georgia legislature’s election reform laws. Can you explain to me the contrast?
Lalli: First, we let me say this. We did not make decisions on these host locations. We support and follow the athletes wherever they compete.
Cotton: Yeah, no. I’ve heard her talking points and I’m tired of hearing them. Mr. Lawley, I’m asking you a simple question. Why is it that Coca-Cola will opine on Georgia’s election laws, but not on the genocide Olympics?
Lalli: As I stated, Georgia is our home. It’s where most many of our employees are hit or live and work, and we are most engaged on public policy issues here in the U.S.
Cotton: I think the answer is you’re going to beat up the Chinese communist party. You’re 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 administration are correct when they say that China is committing genocide against its own people.
This is an excerpt from Conservative Brief.
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