Intel Lobbied Congress on China Slave Labor Bill, Olympic Games

Computer giant apologized to China after swearing off supplies produced in Xinjiang

(Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
January 20, 2022

Intel is the latest Beijing Olympics sponsor revealed to have lobbied Congress on a bill that prohibits imports from China that rely on slave labor, according to records released Thursday.

The computer chip maker paid $50,000 to the Washington, D.C., firm Kountoupes Denham Carr & Reid to lobby Congress on issues related to the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act and the Olympics. Intel joins fellow Olympics sponsor Coca-Cola in lobbying Congress on the Uyghur Act, which requires American companies to prove that goods procured from China's Xinjiang province do not rely on the forced labor of Chinese Uyghurs. Coca-Cola reportedly tried to soften language in the bill, which President Joe Biden signed into law in December 2021 after months of stonewalling from congressional Democrats.

Intel's lobbying further complicates its position on China's human rights abuses. Intel general counsel Steve Rodgers told Congress last July that he accepted the State Department's assessment that China is waging genocide against Uyghurs in Xinjiang. But Intel executives apologized to Chinese authorities last month for saying the company would not use supplies produced in Xinjiang. The company has also ignored calls to pull out of its Olympics sponsorship deal.

Intel has much at stake in China. It receives more than 25 percent of its revenue from the Chinese market and is pursuing a chip manufacturing factory in Chengdu.

It is not clear from the lobbying disclosure whether Intel supported the Uyghur bill or opposed it.

But the lobbyist handling the Intel account also represents Airbnb, another Olympic sponsor, which has faced congressional scrutiny for listing rental properties on land owned by Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. The Chinese company has been sanctioned over its role in forcing Uyghurs to live in reeducation camps.

Procter & Gamble, another Olympic sponsor, has lobbied on Capitol Hill to block a proposal from Rep. Michael Waltz (R., Fla.) that would prohibit sponsors of the games from selling their products at American military installations.

Waltz accused Intel, Procter & Gamble, and other Olympics sponsors of putting profits ahead of national security interests.

"It's inexcusable companies like Intel and Procter & Gamble are given such lucrative contracts from the Defense Department yet are beholden to the Chinese Communist Party," Waltz told the Washington Free Beacon. "U.S. companies have a responsibility to put our country's national security and human rights ahead of Chinese economic interests and the CCP's brutality."

Intel was an early investor in iFlyTek, a Chinese company sponsoring the Olympics that has been sanctioned for helping the government surveil Uyghurs. The company used Intel processors to develop its speech recognition and other surveillance technologies. Intel published a promotional video touting the technology in April 2019. The U.S. government sanctioned iFlyTek in October 2019.

Intel and Kountoupes Denham Carr & Reid did not respond to requests for comment.