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.