US to stage diplomatic boycott of 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

American athletes are still allowed to compete in the event.

Jean Chien Tay | December 07, 2021, 04:51 PM

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The U.S. government has confirmed that it will be staging a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Beijing, China, Bloomberg reported.

American athletes are still free to compete in the event, but the Biden administration will not be sending any diplomatic representative to Beijing.

The U.S.'s decision did not reach the extent of the full-scale measures implemented by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter during the Cold War.

In 1980, Carter pulled the U.S. Olympics team from the Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, according to the Associated Press (AP).

The Soviet Union returned the "favour" in 1984, boycotting the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

"The U.S. will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games"

Previously on Nov. 19, U.S. President Joe Biden said that he was considering a boycott, according to CNN.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced the Biden administration's decision on Dec. 6, and said it was due to "China's ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, and other human rights abuses," Bloomberg reported.

She added that U.S. athletes will continue to compete in the event and will "have our (their) full support", but the U.S. "will not be "contributing to the fanfare of the games", according to AP.

“U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the PRC (People's Republic of China)'s egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply can’t do that".

The press secretary added that the U.S. have a "fundamental commitment" to promote human rights, and stressed that it will "continue to take actions to advance human rights in China and beyond".

Full boycott unlikely

According to CNN, a diplomatic boycott of the sporting event to protest China's human rights issues was supported by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

While some members of the Republican Party suggested that American athletes should not compete in the event, Psaki had previously said that a full boycott is unlikely.

Psaki did not comment on whether Biden considered withdrawing athletes from the Beijing Winter Olympics, AP reported.

She opined that the U.S. could send a clear message by not sending an official delegation.

“I don’t think that we felt it was the right step to penalise athletes who have been training and preparing for this moment (...)," Psaki added.

US Senator labels boycott as "half measure"

However, Republican U.S. Senator and frequent Biden critic Tom Cotton reportedly said that the diplomatic boycott was a "half measure" and called for a full boycott from the U.S., AP reported.

Referring to the event as the "Genocide Games in Beijing", Cotton added that the U.S. should not expose its athletes "to the dangers of a repugnant authoritarian regime that disappears its own athletes".

According to AP, Cotton appeared to be referring to Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai when he made that comment.

Peng previously made sexual assault allegations against former Chinese vice-premier Zhang Gaoli, and vanished from public view for about two weeks.

China responds

In response to the U.S.'s diplomatic boycott, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Dec. 6 that U.S. politicians were hyping the possibility of a boycott before they even received an invitation to attend the sporting event, Bloomberg reported.

Zhao added that the U.S. has offended the people of China, and China will take "necessary and resolute countermeasures" if the U.S. insists on "going down the wrong path".

He further said that the boycott would be "a stain on the spirit of the Olympic charter" and a "sensationalist and politically manipulative" move by U.S. politicians, according to CNN.

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Top image via Anadolu Agency/Getty Images & CGTN