BEIJING (AP) — The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations says China’s selection of a Uyghur athlete to help deliver the Olympic flame in Beijing was an attempt by Chinese officials to “distract” from global attention on its human rights violations.

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The United States is staging a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics, sending athletes but not the traditional delegation of dignitaries, citing China’s alleged systemic and widespread abuse of ethnic and religious minorities in its western region, especially Xinjiang’s predominantly Muslim Uyghurs.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told CNN’s “State of the Union” that Uyghurs are victims of human rights violations and that needs to stay front and center.