Slamming Beijing for choosing a PLA soldier, involved in the Galwan Valley clash between India and China, as a torchbearer for the Beijing Winter Olympics, several US Senators asserted a pro-India stance.

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In pictures released on Wednesday, Qi Fabao, the PLA commander who suffered a head injury when China and India engaged in a border skirmish at the Galwan Valley on June 15, 2020, was seen taking the flame from four-time Olympic short track speed skating champion Wang Meng at the Winter Olympic Park

Idaho Senator Jim Risch, a Republican, on Thursday condemned China, calling the gesture shameful. 

In a tweet, the politician added that Fabao is also involved in ‘implementing genocide against the Uyghurs’. The Senator then reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to supporting Uyghur freedom and the sovereignty of India.

“When it comes to the India-China border situation, we continue to support direct dialogue and a peaceful resolution of the disputes,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters at his daily news conference on Thursday.

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“We have previously voiced our concerns on Beijing’s pattern of ongoing attempts to intimidate its neighbours. As we always do, we stand with friends. We stand with partners and allies to advance our shared prosperity, security and values in the Indo-Pacific,” he said.

Earlier in the day, two top American senators slammed China for its decision to field Qi Fabao, the regimental commander of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), who was injured during the June 2020 border skirmish with Indian soldiers in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, as the torchbearer for the Games Torch Relay.

“Another outrageous example of the #CCP’s flagrant politicization of Beijing2022. Their decision to choose a soldier who participated in a 2020 ambush against Indian troops as torchbearer is appalling and deliberately provocative,” Senator Marco Rubio said.

The senator from Florida said he stands with India.

In another tweet, Senator Jim Risch, a Ranking Member of the powerful US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also said the US will continue to support the sovereignty of India.

“It’s shameful that Beijing chose a torchbearer for the Olympics 2022 who’s part of the military command that attacked India in 2020 and is implementing genocide against the Uyghurs. The US will continue to support Uyghur freedoms and the sovereignty of India,” Risch tweeted.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi alleged that it is an attempt of the Chinese government and Chinese Communist Party to use the glitz and glamour of the Olympics to showcase a façade that distracts global attention from egregious human rights abuses in China.

“These efforts generate many questions that the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) explored throughout 2021 regarding the policies of the International Olympic Committee, the nexus between major sporting events and human rights, and the responsibilities of governments, sporting bodies, corporate sponsors, broadcasters, and others affiliated with these Olympic Games,” she said.

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Meanwhile, Rubio was on Thursday joined by several other senators, including Rick Scott, Josh Hawley, Mike Braun, Ted Cruz and Bill Hagerty, in introducing the ‘No PLA Loopholes’ Act — a bill to close a loophole in the existing law to limit joint military operations and exercises between the United States and the armed wing of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Twenty Indian Army personnel laid down their lives in the Galwan clashes that marked the most serious military conflicts between India and China in decades.

In February last year, China officially acknowledged that five Chinese military officers and soldiers were killed in the Galwan clashes with the Indian Army though it is widely believed that the death toll was higher.

Beijing is hosting the Winter Olympics amidst a diplomatic boycott by the US, European Union and several western countries over their allegations of human rights violations in Xinjiang, including incarceration of over a million Uygur Muslim men and women in camps.