The Biden administration is expected to announce a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics this week, according to a senior administration official late Sunday.
A diplomatic boycott means that no US government officials will attend the games, but US athletes will be able to compete.
A complete boycott was not anticipated.
China’s Foreign Ministry reacted angrily to the expected move on Monday morning.
“The Winter Olympics are not a stage for political show and political manipulation,” said spokesman Zhao Lijian at a daily news conference. A boycott, he said, would be “a serious stain on the spirit of the Olympic Charter,” the document outlining the spirit of the games, as well as “a naked political provocation and a serious offense to the 1.4 billion Chinese people.”
Zhao warned that any boycott would result in “resolute countermeasures,” affecting “China-US dialogue and cooperation in important fields.”
Legislators have pressed the Biden administration to implement the diplomatic boycott. They wanted to speak out against China’s human rights violations.
Last month, President Joe Biden stated that the administration was considering the move.
China has been chastised for repressing pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, for its policies toward Tibet and Taiwan, and for detaining and abusing Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
China’s actions against Uyghurs have been labeled “genocide” by the US State Department and several European countries.
“We have serious concerns about the human rights violations we’ve witnessed,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last month.
Since Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai disappeared from public view for three weeks after making sexual assault allegations against a former senior Chinese Communist Party official, calls for a diplomatic or full boycott of the games have grown.
Peng has since reappeared, but it is unclear whether she is acting on her own volition.
Some see a diplomatic boycott as the best way to hold China accountable without punishing athletes who have been training for the games for years. Others argue that Beijing would be unconcerned about a few missing politicians and diplomats.
“Why should China care about their noises?” a state-run Global Times editorial asked last month, referring to Western opposition to the games. “If China cares about this strategy, it will lose.” If the United States imposes such a boycott, it will almost certainly not be the only country to do so. Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia have all stated that they are considering similar action.
A mass boycott of the Olympics would be the first since the Cold War.
In 1980, the administration of then-President Jimmy Carter led a boycott of the Moscow Olympics in response to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan a year earlier. In retaliation, 15 countries boycotted the games in Los Angeles four years later, led by the Soviet Union.
The International Olympic Committee’s president, Thomas Bach, has stated that he is opposed to boycotts of his organization’s main event.
“A sports boycott serves no purpose,” he said last year, noting that the Soviet Union remained in Afghanistan for nine years after the boycott over its invasion in 1980. “It’s only hurting the athletes and it’s hurting the population of the country because they are losing the joy to share.”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been accused of being too soft on China, both in the Peng case and in allowing Beijing to host the games at all.
The increasing pressure on China comes as the Uyghur Tribunal, a nongovernmental body established by lawyers in the United Kingdom, prepares to issue a ruling on Thursday on whether China’s actions against its Uyghur Muslim minority constitute genocide, which the United States already claims.
China claims that the camps where 1 million people have been held, according to human rights groups, are for “vocational education and training” and are necessary to combat domestic terrorism.