The senators expressed concern over the possibility of continued surveillance of the athletes if they use the digital yuan.
Three United States senators have appealed to the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee to restrict US athletes from using the Chinese Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), a digital yuan, at the 2022 Winter Olympics. The senators, Marsha Blackburn, Roger Wicker and ‘Bitcoin Senator’ Cynthia Lummis made the plea in a letter dated July 19. According to the letter, this is in a bid “to protect the privacy of American athletes from the Chinese Communist Government.”
The senators expressed concern over the possibility of continued surveillance of the athletes even when they do return home. The digital yuan, whose features had not been released until recently, enables the government to know what an individual has bought and from where. The cited, as an example of how the government could surveil citizens, the use of payment and chat app WeChat. Part of the letter reads:
“The integration of China’s digital currency into global commerce has many problematic privacy implications. These concerns are especially pronounced given the Chinese Communist Party’s use of new and emerging technologies to suppress the Uyghur minority, the people of Hong Kong, and those across China who strive for freedom of expression. These concerns are not hypothetical. Rather, digital payment platforms such as WeChat, are already being used to surveil, threaten, and arrest Chinese citizens.”
The Chinese government has been gradually rolling out the digital yuan since April 2020 to assess its feasibility in various use cases. Data from the Chinese central bank — the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) – indicates that almost 21 million people and 3.5 million businesses are using the digital yuan. This makes China’s CBDC project the largest in the world at present. The government has spoken of the possibility of enabling foreign athletes and spectators to use the digital yuan during the February 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Preparation for the 2022 Olympics is still underway despite the looming uncertainty surrounding the Tokyo Summer Olympics scheduled to run from July 23 to August 8. The Winter Olympics are a more assured reality with China’s National Health Commission recording less than 200 new domestic Covid-19 cases per day since March 2020. This information could, however, be dismissed as disinformation by the government.