Biden says U.S. is contemplating diplomatic boycott

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said Thursday the U.S. is considering a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics to protest China’s treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority.

Under a diplomatic boycott, American athletes would continue to compete in the Games, which begin February 4, 2022. However, an official delegation of US government officials would not attend.

The idea of ​​a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Games is not new. Back in April, a State Department spokesman said the US was in talks with key allies about ways to protest China’s human rights record at the Winter Olympics.

But on Thursday, Biden himself confirmed for the first time that a diplomatic boycott is “something we are considering”.

Biden gave the brief answer to a direct question before quickly turning to the next reporter. The exchange took place during a meeting in the Oval Office with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that the announcement a US diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Games would likely take place before the end of the month.

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Human rights activists have long called for a worldwide boycott of the Beijing Olympics, what they call the “Genocide Games”. They also asked the International Olympic Committee to postpone or reschedule the events.

But Western governments have generally opposed the idea of ​​an outright boycott of the Games, a move they see as unfairly punishing athletes for the offenses committed by the host government.

Beijing has international condemnation for its “Extensive repression program” against members of the Uighur Muslim ethnic minority.

In March, the United States and its allies did sanctions imposed against several officials in Xinjiang Province, the traditional homeland of the Uighur people. These sanctions remain in place.

Foreign Minister Antony Blinken has called the treatment of Uyghurs in China “genocide,” but Biden did not use the word. Beijing denies that it violates Uyghur human rights.

Biden’s remarks came just days after holding a highly anticipated virtual summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday evening. However, the summit hardly produced any concrete results.

A White House spokesman later confirmed that the Olympics did not take place during the hour-long meeting.

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics holds the U.S. broadcast rights to all Summer and Winter Games through 2032.