The US administration has announced it will not be sending an official delegation to the Beijing Winter Olympics next year as a sign of diplomatic boycott.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the boycott on Monday, saying that the administration would not contribute to the “fanfare” of the Olympics.
“US diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang,” she said. “We simply can’t do that.”
American athletes are still expected to compete in the Olympics, despite the Biden administration not sending any representatives to Beijing.
China has previously said it will take “resolute countermeasures” in the event of a boycott.
The Biden administration’s diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics falls far short of a previous US boycott in 1980, when it pulled its athletes out of the Moscow Olympics to protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the previous year.
The Soviet Union and its allies, in turn, boycotted the following 1984 Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles.
The US is itself due to hold the Summer Olympics in 2028 in Los Angeles.
The diplomatic boycott was quickly praised by politicians from both sides of the political spectrum as both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have previously called for the boycott as a means to protest against Chinese human rights abuses.
Republican Utah Senator Mitt Romney tweeted that the Biden administration was “right to refuse” a diplomatic presence at the Olympics.
Democratic House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she applauded the administration’s decision.
“While we must support and celebrate our athletes, America – and the world – cannot give our official imprimatur to these games or proceed as if there is nothing wrong with holding the Olympics in a country perpetrating genocide and mass human rights violations,” Ms. Pelosi said.
The US has accused China of repression of the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities living mostly in the autonomous region of Xinjiang.
Tensions have also risen over the way China has acted to suppress political freedoms in Hong Kong, and because of concern for the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who has accused a top government official of assault.
The Women’s Tennis Association last week suspended all tournaments in China because of “serious doubts” about Ms. Peng’s safety.
Other countries, including the UK and Australia, are said to be considering boycotts.
China earlier described the possibility of a boycott as wishful thinking and grandstanding, given that no US officials had yet been invited to the games.
“I want to stress that the Winter Olympic Games is not a stage for political posturing and manipulation,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular press briefing.
“If the US is bent on having its own way, China will take resolute countermeasures,” Mr. Zhao added.
High-level government representatives – from the US and other countries – are usually present at Olympic Games.
Earlier this year, First Lady Jill Biden led the US delegation at the summer Olympics held in Tokyo. (Source: BBC)