The US will stage a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing to protest over Chinese human rights abuses, the White House has confirmed.
“US diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the PRC’s egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply can’t do that,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during Monday’s briefing.
She said that US athletes will continue to compete and will “have our full support”, but added “we will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games”.
“We have a fundamental commitment to promoting human rights. And we feel strongly in our position and we will continue to take actions to advance human rights in China and beyond,” Ms Psaki added.
President Joe Biden this week will host a White House Summit for Democracy, a virtual gathering of leaders and civil society experts from more than 100 countries that is set to take place Thursday and Friday.
The administration has said that Mr Biden intends to use the convening “to announce both individual and collective commitments, reforms, and initiatives to defend democracy and human rights at home and abroad”.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez called such a diplomatic boycott “a necessary step to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to human rights in the face of the Chinese government’s unconscionable abuses”.
He called on “other allies and partners that share our values to join with the United States in this diplomatic boycott”.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian accused US politicians of grandstanding over the issue of not sending dignitaries to attend events that China hopes will showcase its economic development and technological prowess.
Speaking to reporters at a daily briefing, Mr Zhao said such a move would be an “outright political provocation,” but gave no details on how China might retaliate.
Human rights advocates and lawmakers in the US who support a boycott say it is a necessary step. They cite China’s poor record on human rights as justification, saying China is using the games to whitewash its ill treatment of civil rights activists, political dissidents and ethnic minorities.
“Without being invited, American politicians keep hyping the so-called diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, which is purely wishful thinking and grandstanding,” Mr Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing.
“If the US side is bent on going its own way, China will take firm countermeasures.”