US lawmakers don’t want Olympic athletes to use digital yuan at 2022 games

Three U.S. senators have signed a letter urging Olympic officials to forbid American athletes from handling digital yuan during the Beijing 2022 Winter Games.

In a Monday letter to U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee board chair Susanne Lyons, Republican senators Marsha Blackburn, Roger Wicker, and Cynthia Lummis requested officials prevent U.S. athletes from using or accepting digital yuan given their allegation it can be “tracked and traced” by the People’s Bank of China, or PBoC. The three claimed that the Chinese Communist Party could use the digital currency to surveil visiting athletes and upon their return to the United States.

The senators said that the Chinese government had recently rolled out new features for the digital yuan, giving officials the ability “to know the exact details of what someone purchased and where.” They cited the messaging and payment app WeChat as precedent, claiming the platform was “already being used to surveil, threaten, and arrest Chinese citizens.”

Lummis, Blackburn and Wicker requested a briefing on the topic for the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation within 30 days. They urged the Olympic committee to work with federal agencies “to protect the privacy of American athletes from the Chinese Communist Government.”

Related: China aims to let foreigners use digital yuan at Winter Olympics in 2022

China started piloting trials of its digital yuan in April 2020, giving away thousands of dollars worth of the central bank digital currency, or CBDC, to residents in different cities. The PBoC also said it was exploring letting foreign athletes and visitors use the CBDC during the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022, which would reportedly be the first such test by foreign nationals in China.

Though the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo were delayed by a year due to the ongoing pandemic, Beijing is reportedly still on track in preparing for the winter games, scheduled to begin in February 2022. China’s National Health Commission has consistently reported fewer than 200 new daily domestic cases of COVID-19 since March 2020, but some reports have suggested the government is responsible for a misinformation campaign concerning the pandemic.