As of: December 6, 2021 8:11 PM
The US government is serious: No diplomatic representative from Washington will attend the Winter Olympics next February. American athletes are not affected by the boycott.
The United States has announced a diplomatic boycott of the Olympic Games in China next year. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in Washington that the Biden administration will not send diplomatic or official representatives to Beijing for the Winter Games. The background to this is the ongoing “genocide” in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region and other human rights abuses.
Psaki said the US government will encourage American athletes from home. When asked why the US government refrained from completely boycotting the Games, Psaki said she did not want to penalize athletes who trained extensively for the Games. The government believes that the move will also send a “clear message”. Psaki emphasized that the US government informed international partners of the decision and left them to make their own decisions.
China threatens countermeasures
The Winter Olympics will be held in China from February 4-20, 2022. The authoritarian state has been accused of violating human rights on many sides, especially against minorities such as Uyghur Muslims. Human rights groups cite the autonomous regions of Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong as examples of Chinese retaliation.
Time and time again, calls to boycott the Winter Games there are loud. There is significant political tension between the United States and China over the human rights situation, and also because of many other controversial issues.
In an initial reaction, the IOC described the government officials’ presence as “a purely political decision which the IOC fully respects in its political neutrality”. An IOC spokesperson, meanwhile, said the US declaration made clear that “the Olympics and athlete participation go beyond politics and we welcome that.”
The Peng Shuai issue also strains relations
China had threatened the US with “strong countermeasures” if the US implemented the boycott. “If the United States deliberately insists on sticking to its own course, China will take decisive measures,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.
A diplomatic boycott of the United States has been under discussion for weeks. The case of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai also contributed. At the beginning of November she suddenly disappeared from the scene. Not long ago, the 35-year-old professional player accused a former high-ranking politician in China of sexually assaulting her. Despite his resurgence in public, human rights activists, athletes and the USA are concerned about Peng Shuai’s well-being and are calling for clarification.
Britain is also considering a political boycott
The United States is not the only country considering setting an example at the Winter Games in Beijing: According to a report by The Times, the government of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also been advising since the end of November on whether the ambassador to China should just go to Games – but no British ministers. Secretary of State Liz Truss has endorsed the call for a boycott. According to the report, five Conservative politicians wrote to Johnson asking him to refrain from any diplomatic representation of Great Britain at the Winter Games.
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