U.S. broadcasts diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics over human rights abuses

The US announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing on Monday, a move that had received non-partisan support from critics of China’s human rights record.

While US athletes will continue to compete, President Joe Biden’s administration will not send an official representation to the Games in China amid “the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses”, White House press secretary Jen said Psaki, told reporters.

Psaki was referring to China’s reported treatment of Uighur Muslims in this northwest area, known as genocide from both Biden and former President Donald Trump’s administration.

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“The Team USA athletes have our full support. We will be 100 percent behind them if we cheer them on from home. We will not be contributing to the fanfare of the Games,” said Psaki.

“The US diplomatic or official mission would be faced with these games [People’s Republic of China’s] egregious human rights violations and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we just can’t do that, “she said.

“We will continue to take action to advance human rights in China and beyond,” she said.

The expected move was preventively criticized on Monday by the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Zhao Lijian. “It is a travesty of the Olympic spirit, it is a political provocation and an insult to the 1.4 billion Chinese,” he said, according to a translation of his remarks.

“If the US insists on going the wrong way, China will take necessary and decisive countermeasures,” said Zhao.

The Chinese government under President Xi Jinping has been condemned by dozens of countries for its actions in Xinjiang and its crackdown on pro-democratic protesters in Hong Kong in 2019 and 2020.

More recently, Beijing has come under fire after having disappeared for weeks Tennis star Peng Shuaiwho disappeared after publicly accusing a former Chinese Communist Party senior official of sexual assault.

The women’s tennis association announced last week it will suspend tournaments in China immediately due to concerns about the treatment and safety of Peng and other players.

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.

China orders Wuhan mass testing, Beijing restrictions as Covid delta spreads

Residents of the city of Wuhan in the Chinese province of Hubei are due to take nucleic acid tests for Covid-19 on August 3, 2021.

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China is facing a resurgence in major cities of Beijing to Wuhan, and authorities have mass tests and widespread travel restrictions in some areas.

Daily Covid-19 cases are on the rise again as the Delta variant spreads across the country.

China’s National Health Commission said it confirmed 96 Covid cases on Wednesday – 90 cases and more were reported for the third day in a row. Of the newly confirmed cases, 71 were transmitted locally, said the health commission.

Economists fear that strict government crackdown on movements could harm the economy – the only major economy that grew last year.

“China has already shown that it is ready to take tough measures to control Covid, and we have no doubt it will do so this time too,” said Robert Carnell, regional director of Asia-Pacific research at Dutch bank ING , in a note on Wednesday.

“The strict restrictions on movement and travel that already exist will likely produce the desired results. But the Delta variant is a particularly slippery little creature, and the concern for us and many others is how quickly this will happen and at” what the economy has cost in the meantime, “he added.

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When Covid-19 first surfaced in the country in late 2019, authorities put in place strict lockdowns and mass testing to control the nationwide outbreak.

Since then, the Chinese authorities have cracked down on all flare-ups of Covid infections. The recent proliferation of the more highly transmissible Covid Delta variant has once again prompted authorities to tighten containment measures across the country.

The state media agency Xinhua reported authorities have urged people to restrict travel and avoid gatherings, and to suspend some flights, trains and long-distance bus services.

The capital Beijing imposed strict entry and exit controls on Sunday and is said to be in a “critical stage” of epidemic control after cases rose for the first time in months in late July, Xinhua reported.

The city of Wuhan, where the corona virus first appeared, will test all of its residents for new Covid cases, the news agency said.

As of July 20, Wuhan had administered more than 17 million doses of Covid vaccines, and the vaccination rate for those 18-year-olds and above was 77.63%, according to the Wuhan City Health Commission.

“Slow patch” in China’s economy

China’s economic recovery has been mixed, with export-oriented sectors accounting for most of the growth, while domestic consumption has recovered more slowly.

The resurgence of Covid-19 infections and recent containment measures would delay a recovery in Chinese budget spending, said Sian Fenner, chief Asian economist at consultancy Oxford Economics.

“The geographic spread of the Delta variant is going to be a concern for the Chinese authorities. We have already seen that they have very little tolerance for, you know, even a relatively small flare-up,” she told CNBC “Squawk Box Asia” On Wednesday.

“We were hoping that this would actually improve service consumption through the increase in vaccination rates, but it looks like we’ll see a different kind of slow patch in the future and … the delayed recovery in household spending,” she added.

Fenner said she is sticking to her full-year growth forecast of 8.4% for China for now. That is slightly more than the International Monetary Fund’s forecast 8.1% growth in China.

– CNBC’s Weizhen Tan contributed to this report.