The president of the Associated Press on Wednesday touted the wire service's participation in the Beijing Olympics at a forum hosted by the Chinese Communist Party's propaganda department.
Daisy Veerasingham spoke virtually at the China Media Group forum, where news organizations detailed their planned coverage for the 2022 Winter Games. China Media Group oversees state-controlled media outlets including China Central Television and China Global Television Network. She expressed excitement for the AP's planned coverage while ignoring the controversies surrounding the Olympics.
As the head of one of the world's biggest news organizations, Veerasingham's participation in the forum provided a public relations win for the Chinese government. Human rights groups have called on Olympic sponsors and media broadcasters to boycott the games over China's ongoing genocide against Uyghurs. Athletes and journalists have expressed concern the government is requiring them to upload phone apps that track health and travel data. Reporters have been warned to use burner phones in Beijing because of China's robust surveillance state.
Veerasingham described a series of tech innovations the AP will use at the games, including 5G technology. Her message dovetailed with China’s promotion of technological developments it hopes to showcase at the event. The Chinese government selected China Unicom Beijing to provide internet service for the Olympics. Unicom, in turn, will use technology developed by Huawei, which the United States has sanctioned because of its threat to national security. iFlytek, another tech firm sanctioned by the United States, is the official provider of translation technology for the games. It has been implicated in surveilling Uyghurs.
A spokeswoman for the AP defended Veerasingham's appearance, pointing to fact that the conference was attended by many media organizations around the world. The spokeswoman also pointed to the outlet's critical coverage of China's human rights violations against the Uyghurs and other topics.
During the forum, Huang Kunming, the head of the CCP propaganda department, urged international media outlets to portray the Olympics as "fantastic, extraordinary, and excellent." Chinese president Xi Jinping sent a congratulatory letter to the forum's organizers after the event.
Veerasingham gave no indication the AP is cutting back on its coverage of the Olympics, as other news organizations plan to do. ESPN said it will not send journalists to Beijing because of the coronavirus pandemic and the government's strict policies regarding people who test positive for COVID-19.
Beijing has mobilized its propaganda agencies to promote the Winter Games and neutralize calls for boycotts. The Chinese consulate in New York City hired a public relations firm last month to recruit social media influencers to promote the Olympics and highlight Chinese culture. The Chinese embassy and China Global Television Network advertised for the Olympics at a Washington Capitals game earlier this month.
Update 7:34 p.m.: This piece was updated to include comment from an AP spokeswoman.