US won't send government officials to Beijing Winter Olympics

White House confirms diplomatic boycott of 2022 Games in China

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The White House on Monday announced it will not send any US diplomats to the 2022 Winter Olympics, which take place in Beijing, over human rights concerns with China.

Washington has long expressed concern about China's handlings of human rights, from its detainment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, policy in Tibet and Taiwan, and attitude to democratic rights in Hong Kong.

"The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, given the PRC's [People's Republic of China's] ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses," press secretary Jen Psaki said.

A diplomatic boycott would allow for the US to support Olympians who have worked hard to compete in the international games while not showing political support for their contentions with China.

"The athletes on Team USA have our full support and we will be behind them 100 per cent as we cheer them on from home," Ms Pskai said.

The Washington Post and CNN first reported administrative discussions over a possible boycott. US President Joe Biden told reporters in November it was under "consideration".

Mr Biden and China's President Xi Jinping held a virtual meeting for more than three hours in mid-November, their first after Mr Biden entered office.

"President Biden raised concerns about the PRC’s practices in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, as well as human rights more broadly," a White House readout of the conference said.

A senior official at the White House said the Beijing Olympics did not come up during conversations.

"I want to stress that the Winter Olympics is not a stage for political posturing and manipulation," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a press conference on Monday after CNN's report.

The US, he said, "should stop hyping the so-called 'diplomatic boycott' of the Beijing Winter Games, lest it should affect bilateral dialogue and co-operation in important areas. If the US is bent on having its own way, China will take resolute countermeasures."

US politicians voiced bipartisan support for some sort of response to the Olympics, including from Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah.

The International Olympics Committee has asserted that the Games are a neutral political ground.

The US "will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games", Ms Psaki said on Monday.

"US diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the PRCs egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang and we simply can't do that."

The last time the US led a full boycott with no attending dignitaries or participating athletes was for the Moscow Olympics in 1980 under then-president Jimmy Carter over the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan. Canada, Israel, Japan, China, Egypt, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates were among other countries to boycott the Games.

Australia, Canada and the UK are considering similar steps for 2022 Winter Olympics.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, in May voiced hopes for a diplomatic boycott.

"What moral authority do you have to speak again about human rights any place in the world if you're willing to pay your respects to the Chinese government as they commit genocide?" she said in reference to its detainment of Uighurs.

"So, honour your athletes at home. Let's have a diplomatic boycott, if in fact this Olympics takes place. Silence on this issue is unacceptable. It enables China's abuses."

Updated: April 27, 2022, 11:52 AM
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