China’s government warned Washington on Wednesday not to boycott next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing after the Biden administration said it was talking with allies about a joint approach to complaints of human rights abuses.
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A Foreign Ministry spokesperson rejected accusations of abuses against ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region. He warned of an unspecified “robust Chinese response” to a potential Olympics boycott.
“The politicization of sports will damage the spirit of the Olympic Charter and the interests of athletes from all countries,” said the spokesperson, Zhao Lijian. “The international community including the US Olympic Committee will not accept it.”
Human rights groups are protesting China’s hosting of the games, due to start in February 2022. They have urged a boycott or other measures to call attention to accusations of Chinese abuses against Uyghurs, Tibetans and residents of Hong Kong.
The US State Department suggested an Olympic boycott was among the possibilities but a senior official said later a boycott has not been discussed. The International Olympic Committee and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee have said in the past they oppose boycotts.
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The State Department denied Tuesday evening that it was considering a joint boycott alongside allies of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
“Our position on the 2022 Olympics has not changed. We have not discussed and are not discussing any joint boycott with allies and partners,” a senior State Department official wrote in a statement.
Department spokesman Ned Price had initially suggested during a press briefing earlier on Tuesday that a boycott of the Olympic Games was among the possibilities for addressing China’s human rights abuses. The Olympic Games are due to take place between Feb. 4 and Feb. 20.
Any discussion of a diplomatic boycott of the Olympic Games would come as the Biden administration works to rally allies to mount international pushback on China. While there is broad bipartisan support for taking a tougher policy stance against China, there is hardly unanimous agreement that a boycott would be the most productive path to pursue.