The White House is soon expected to announce a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in China as a show of protest over a number of issues, most notably human rights, according to news reports Monday.
CNN and NBC News reported that President Joe Biden’s administration is expected to announced the boycott this week. The move will still allow U.S. athletes to participate in the Games in Beijing in February — but won’t send any American officials or dignitaries to the event, which is standard practice.
Beijing is scheduled to host the 2022 Winter Olympics from Feb. 4 through Feb. 20. It will be the first city to host both the Winter and Summer Games (2008).
Biden said last month that he was considering some type of boycott for the games. Human rights advocates have been calling for the boycott due to China’s historically questionable record on the subject.
If Biden does initiate a diplomatic blackout, it would be the first U.S. boycott of any kind for the Olympic Games since President Jimmy Carter ordered a full boycott for the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow over Russia’s military invasion of Afghanistan. No American athletes participated in those Games, and Russia returned the favor with a similar boycott of the Los Angeles Summer Olympics four years later.
British runner Sebastian Coe clinches the gold medal in the men’s 1500m race at the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow, Russia. If Biden orders a diplomatic blackout for Beijing, it would be the first U.S. Olympic boycott of any kind since President Jimmy Carter fully blocked U.S. athletes from participating in the Moscow Games over Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan. File Photo by Joe Marquette/UPI
Biden’s boycott would also signal a new thorn in the side of U.S.-China relations, which have grown steadily worse over the last few years.
In response to the reports, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian largely dismissed the idea of a U.S. boycott in February.
“No one would mind individual politicians’ attending the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games,” Zhao said, according to the state-run Global Times. “Protagonists of the Beijing Winter Olympics are athletes from various countries, not individual politicians.
“Those politicians who brag about the so-called boycott are simply doing it for their own political gains and attention. Whether they come or not is in the interest of no one, and will have no influence on Beijing holding a successful Olympics.”
The United States has criticized China on various issues, from violently cracking down on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, to its policies toward Tibet and Taiwan and for detaining and abusing minority Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
Last week, the Women’s Tennis Association announced that it will not stage any tournaments in China in response to Beijing’s handling of sex assault accusations from tennis star Peng Shuai. Peng said a month ago on social media that she was assaulted by former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.
Beijing also responded with anger that the United States has invited Taiwan to the Summit for Democracy this month. China has long claimed sovereign control over the island and has opposed any effort by Taiwan to act as an independent nation.
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