Marco Rubio Calls on Joe Biden to Protect Olympic Athletes From Chinese Cybersecurity Threats

On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., sent a letter to President Joe Biden inquiring what steps his administration has taken to ensure that all U.S. Olympic athletes are “sufficiently protected from Beijing’s surveillance and manipulation.”

Specifically, Rubio raised concerns over the Chinese Communist Party’s recent deployment of the “digital yuan,” a digital currency aimed at challenging the U.S. dollar’s status as the global reserve currency and which poses risks to American users’ cybersecurity.

Rubio is the vice-chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a senior member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

The full text of the letter is below.

Dear Mr. President:

In less than a month, hundreds of American athletes will convene in Beijing to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics. I write to express my profound disappointment that, by declining to call for a full boycott of the event, your administration is allowing the repressive Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to legitimize itself via Team USA’s presence. No Olympic Games should ever occur in a nation guilty of genocide and other egregious crimes against humanity, and I, along with other bipartisan legislators, have repeatedly implored the International Olympic Committee to postpone and relocate the event as such.

On behalf of the American athletes who will attend the Games because of your administration’s habitual inability to stand up to the CCP, it is critical that you take the steps necessary to ensure that they are sufficiently protected from Beijing’s surveillance and manipulation. One particular concern is the CCP’s recent deployment of the so-called digital yuan, a digital currency aimed at challenging the U.S. dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency and which poses a tremendous security threat to individual users.

Beijing is pressuring American vendors such as Visa, Nike, and McDonald’s to accept digital yuan as payment ahead of the Winter Olympics, and the CCP is widely expected to roll out the currency more broadly to visitors at the Games. The threat this poses to
Americans, who may be similarly coerced into downloading harmful, foreign software in order to process the currency and engage in financial transactions while in China, is enormous.

To ensure that Americans’ cybersecurity is sufficiently maintained, it is imperative that your administration take the steps necessary to protect against the digital yuan and any associated software. It is with that serious concern in mind that I ask for answers to the following questions:

What measures is your administration taking to protect the cybersecurity and personal privacy of American athletes and attendees at the upcoming Beijing Olympics?

What steps has your administration taken or does it plan to take prior to the Games to educate athletes and attendees about the risks associated with using digital yuan, as well as other cyber risks they will face while in China?

What resources will be available to athletes and attendees before, during, and after the Games to address their concerns about using the digital yuan and other measures the Chinese government has rolled out?

To what degree is the administration working to ensure the availability of meaningful alternatives to the digital yuan for transactions involving American athletes and attendees in Beijing?

What protocols does your administration plan to put in place prior to the games regarding athletes and attendees downloading apps on their phones while in China?

What steps is your administration taking, or does your administration plan to take, to vet foreign apps or software that Beijing may pressure Americans to download in order to use the digital yuan or for other measures?

What recommendations regarding the use of digital yuan and other cyber measures does the administration plan to recommend to athletes and attendees prior to the games?

The Chinese government has only recently launched the digital yuan platform. How much does your administration know about the platform and its current uses, and how is your administration monitoring its development and application?

What steps does the administration plan to take to ensure that, upon the return to the U.S. after the Games, athletes and attendees’ information will not exploited by the Chinese government?

Thank you for your attention to this serious matter. I look forward to your response.

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