A representative of Coca-Cola refused to answer whether or not China is committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims during a congressional hearing Tuesday.
Paul Lalli, global vice president of human rights at Coca-Cola, was evasive when asked by Republican Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton about the plight of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Lalli was questioned along with representatives from Visa, Airbnb, Intel and Proctor & Gamble during a hearing on American corporations sponsoring the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
“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, they continue to inform our program, as do reports from civil society,” Lalli said when asked directly by Cotton if he believed China is committing genocide against the Uyghurs. “We stand up for what is right across the world. We apply the same human rights principles in the United States as we do across the world,” Lalli said.
The U.S. Department of State, along with a number of other governmental and human rights organizations globally, has classified Chinese detainment, torture and killing of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang as a genocide. Some activists have called for the United States to boycott the 2022 Olympics in Beijing and for American corporations to exert more economic pressure on the Chinese Communist Party generally.
“Every single one of you refused to say a single word, by all appearances, that will cost you one bit of market share inside of mainland China,” Cotton said. “Can you tell me why Coca Cola doesn’t have a say in whether it sponsors the genocide Olympics next year but it does have a say in how the state of Georgia runs its election laws?”
Coca Cola, which is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, was an outspoken critic of the new election law passed in the state by Republican lawmakers earlier this year. (RELATED: ANALYSIS: Is Corporate Racial Wokism Just A Red Herring Meant To Distract From The Bottom Line? Look At Georgia)
“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,” Lalli responded. “We are most engaged on policy issues here at home, but we are clear on our respect for human rights globally.”
Coca Cola does not provide country-specific sales data, but the Asia-Pacific region represents its second-largest in terms of sales, comprising about 28% of business globally. The company is building a new plant in Southern China that is slated to open later this year, producing about 187,000 tons of beverages every year.
Cotton blasted the corporation for its double standard on the U.S. and China: “Your CEO could saddle up the same moral high-horse that he got on when Georgia passed its election law and write a letter to the IOC, and ask them to [move the games.]”