U.S. government officials will boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing because of China’s human rights “atrocities”, the White House said on Monday, just weeks after talks aimed at easing tense relations between the two superpowers.
According to Reuters, the diplomatic boycott, which leaves athletes free to travel to Beijing to compete, has been encouraged by some members of Congress and rights advocacy groups for months.
Beijing threatened unspecified “resolute countermeasures” against any such move before Monday’s announcement, which is certain to further strain relations already at their lowest point in decades.
President Joe Biden’s administration highlighted what Washington says is genocide against minority Muslims in China’s western region of Xinjiang. China denies all rights abuses.
“U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the PRC’s egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply can’t do that,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told a daily press briefing, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
“The athletes on Team USA have our full support,” Psaki added. “We will be behind them 100% as we cheer them on from home.”
The move comes despite an effort to stabilise ties with a video meeting last month between Biden and China’s leader Xi Jinping.
China’s embassy in Washington called the boycott “political manipulation” that would have no impact on the Games as no invitations had been extended to U.S. politicians.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is the only leader of a major country who has accepted an invitation.
The Chinese Mission to the United Nations said the move “reflects the Cold War mentality of the United States.”