U.S. decides on “diplomatic boycott” of Beijing Olympics

Dec 07 , 2021. 3 hours ago – 07:19 KYODO NEWS

U.S. President Joe Biden (L, Getty/Kyodo) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (Kyodo). 

WASHINGTON – The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden said Monday it has decided on a diplomatic boycott of next year’s Beijing Olympics, in a show of protest over China’s alleged human rights abuses against the Muslim Uyghur minority and others.

“The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, in an announcement certain to further strain U.S. ties with China amid their increasing rivalry in areas ranging from military to economy and technology.

U.S. athletes will still be allowed to compete in the global sporting event slated to start on Feb. 4.

The latest move is intended to send a “clear message” that the United States cannot proceed with “business as usual,” given China’s alleged human rights violations which Washington has labeled as “genocide,” Psaki said.

The focus will now shift to how many countries will follow suit. Psaki said the United States has informed its allies of the decision and “we will leave it to them to make their own decisions.”

Countries such as Britain and Australia have reportedly been considering a diplomatic boycott. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said last month that the government will make a decision while taking into consideration his country’s national interests.

China has been under international scrutiny over the treatment of Uyghurs and other minority groups in its far-western Xinjiang region, which the U.S. government has said includes mass arbitrary detention, forced sterilization and forced labor.

Beijing has denied the allegations of human rights abuses and has expressed strong opposition to actions that “politicize” sports.

Prior to the U.S. announcement, China pledged Monday to take retaliatory measures if the United States implements the diplomatic boycott, without elaborating on what kind of steps those might be.

New York-based Human Rights Watch hailed the U.S. move as “a crucial step toward challenging the Chinese government’s crimes against humanity targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic communities.”

But it added, “This shouldn’t be the only action. The U.S. should now redouble efforts with like-minded governments to investigate and map out pathways to accountability for those responsible for these crimes and justice for the survivors.”

A countdown board in Beijing on Nov. 24, 2021, shows 100 days until the start of the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympics. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

In 1980, the United States fully boycotted the Moscow Olympics, including a pullout of all U.S. athletes, to express displeasure over the then Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan a year before.

As the then administration of President Jimmy Carter rallied support for the boycott, more than 60 countries, including Japan, refused to participate in the Summer Games. But countries such as Britain and France did not join the move at that time.

Asked why the Biden administration did not go so far as barring athletes from taking part in the upcoming games, Psaki said she believes that the U.S. athletes who have been working hard training and preparing for the event should be able to compete.

Biden said in November that his administration was considering a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics. U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged earlier this year during a congressional hearing that world leaders boycott the games.

China, meanwhile, has also been in the hot seat recently over the temporary disappearance of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai from public view after she alleged sexual assault by a former Chinese vice premier in early November.

While images of her later appeared on state-run media, concerns have lingered over whether she is free from government censorship or intimidation.