Congressional Republicans Worry About Data Security, Demand U.S. Winter Olympians Ban Chinese Digital Currency

This comes just after Chinese authorities announced that overseas visitors will be allowed to use China’s digital yuan during the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing without having to open a bank account in China. Several Republican members of the U.S. Congress have raised concerns about the data security doubts it could raise.

Republican U.S. Senators Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) sent a letter to the U.S. Olympic Committee on Monday (July 19) asking U.S. athletes to The letter was sent to the U.S. Olympic Committee on Monday (July 19), asking U.S. athletes to ban the use of China’s digital yuan during the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing next year.

In a statement, the lawmakers said they are concerned that the Chinese government may be using the digital currency to spy on U.S. athletes. “The digital yuan is completely under the control of the People’s Bank of China and can be completely tracked and traced by their central bank,” the lawmakers said.

“These concerns are particularly important given the Chinese Communist Party’s use of these emerging technologies to crack down on the Uighur minority, Hong Kongers and those fighting for free speech across China,” the lawmakers said in the joint letter.

“These concerns are not hypothetical. Instead, digital payment platforms like WeChat have long been used to spy on, threaten and arrest Chinese citizens.”

Mobile payments have grown rapidly over the past few years and now dominate the way people pay for consumer purchases in cities of all sizes in China. However, two major mobile payment apps, including those operated by Tencent and Alibaba, typically require a connection to a domestic Chinese bank account, meaning foreign visitors in China cannot easily use them without a Chinese bank account.

The People’s Bank of China has set up a “legal digital currency research group” since 2014 to develop a “digital version of the renminbi,” or e-CNY. it is unclear when this “digital version of the renminbi,” which is still being tested, will be developed under the leadership of the Chinese government. It is unclear when this “digital version of the yuan”, which is still being tested by the Chinese government, will be officially launched.

On Friday (July 16), the People’s Bank of China released a 21-page white paper, “Progress in the Development of China’s Digital RMB,” in both Chinese and English. It mentions that “the public without bank accounts can enjoy basic financial services through digital RMB wallets, and foreign residents who come to China for a short period of time can open digital RMB wallets to meet their daily payment needs in China without opening bank accounts in mainland China.”

The white paper also noted that by the end of June, China had been testing digital renminbi in 1.32 million pilot scenarios in its territory for about a year and had opened more than 20.87 million personal e-wallets, and more than 3.51 million public wallets, with a cumulative number of more than 70.75 million transactions and a transaction value of about RMB 34.5 billion ($5.39 billion).

However, foreigners are not typically included in these tests of digital currency systems conducted by the Chinese government. These tests are limited to residents of mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Fan Yifei, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, said last month that the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing will be the next key operational pilot for the “digital currency electronic payment” system. The Beijing Winter Olympics are expected to be held from Feb. 4 to 20 next year.

In a joint letter, Republican U.S. lawmakers emphasized that “it is of the utmost importance that the USOC work with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Commerce to protect the privacy of U.S. athletes from the Communist government of China.”

In addition, the lawmakers want the USOC to brief the Senate Commerce Committee on the concerns they have raised within one month of receiving the letter.