Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., says he is worried that some U.S. athletes competing in the Beijing Olympics could be exposed to long-term surveillance by China’s communist regime.

“Our FBI had to recommend that our athletes take burner phones and devices,” Cotton said Tuesday in an interview with Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts on the latter’s new podcast. “I think a lot of them did. Maybe not all of them did. Maybe they used the same passwords for their devices they left behind.” 

The Arkansas Republican added during his interview on “The Kevin Roberts Show”:

I’m very worried about that kind of all-encompassing electronic surveillance. I’m worried about them exporting the DNA of our athletes for years to come under the pretext of coronavirus tests, having collected their DNA and added it to the massive databases that they are collecting.

Cotton had called for President Joe Biden to work with a coalition of allied nations to push the International Olympic Committee to have the games rebid and hosted by a free and democratic country. He cited issues in China such as the regime’s genocide of Uyghur Muslims and apparent cover-up of the origins of COVID-19

The Biden administration instead chose to conduct a diplomatic boycott. Cotton argued that the Winter Olympics are considerably smaller in scale than the Summer Olympics and wouldn’t be difficult to relocate. 

Cotton also noted that in a meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Macron refused to take a COVID-19 test because he didn’t want Russia to have his DNA. 

“But that’s what our athletes have had to do over the last couple weeks,” Cotton said. “So I’m still very worried about our athletes. Again, I hope they all get out safely later this week and they aren’t exposed to a lifetime of surveillance and exploitation. That’s why we should have never put them in this place to begin with, though.”

Cotton also talked about the dangers posed by the growing influence of the China lobby over the U.S. government and U.S. corporations—and the need for “decoupling” from such relationships.

“Unfortunately, China and its growing economy has spread its tentacles throughout American society to the extent that they have a vast and influential lobby in the quarters of power in Washington,” Cotton said, adding later: 

Hollywood is deeply, deeply in the pocket of Beijing, both for money to fund its own movie production but also to get market access in China. Likewise, giant corporations that have outsourced so much of their basic manufacturing, not only costing jobs here at home but also giving China more influence in corporate America, which then gets reflected in Washington as well. 

Cotton noted that during trade negotiations between China and the Trump administration, a lead Chinese negotiator “demanded” a meeting with the heads of Wall Street banks to “put pressure on the White House and on Congress to try to cut a better deal with China.”

Cotton said his Senate office issued a report last year on decoupling from China, breaking off the United States’ heavy dependence on the communist country.

We never had the kind of economic entanglement with Soviet Russia during the Cold War that we have with Communist China today. That gives Communist China vast points of pressure and influence in our political system. And only when we take away those points of pressure, when we disentangle our economy on the strategic basis with China’s economy, can we begin to reduce the influence it has in our political system.

There are measures the United States can take, the Arkansas senator said. 

In some cases we can just forbid the trade in goods with China if items are so critical, like rare earth elements. There’s other things we can do, like repealing China’s permanent most favored nation status, which is what supercharged American investment in China that sent our factories and our manufacturing jobs to China. That’s the last thing the Chinese Communist Party wants to see.

Cotton introduced a bill modeled after post-9/11 legislation to bring justice for victims of the terrorist attacks on America. His bill would allow Americans to hold Chinese Communist Party officials responsible in American courts for the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s almost certain that this virus came out of a Chinese laboratory,” Cotton said. “We don’t know the circumstances of it, but every bit of evidence we have points to that. The people who were responsible for that laboratory, who hid that information, who lied to the world about it, who covered up data that could have saved lives early in this pandemic should be responsible.”

Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the url or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state.