No U.S. government official or President Joe Biden himself will attend the 2022 Olympic games in Beijing in what authorities are calling a diplomatic boycott.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced Monday that sending representation would “treat these games as business as usual,” in the face of China’s “egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang,” and America “simply can’t do that.”
“As the president has told President Xi, standing up for human rights is in the DNA of Americans,” Psaki said. “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.”
The White House’s decision to boycott the February games is meant to reflect its displeasure over human rights abuses in China, the Washington Post reported.
The United States will send athletes to compete but representatives from the nation will not attend. This is unlike in 1980, when the Carter administration announced a full American boycott to the Moscow Olympics during the height of the Cold War.
“The athletes on Team USA have our full support. We will be behind them 100% as we cheer them on from home,” Psaki said at the White House press briefing Monday.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded the news of a potential boycott Monday. “The Winter Olympics is not a stage for political show and political manipulation,” spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a press briefing, according to NBC News.
“Without being invited, American politicians keep hyping the so-called diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympic, which is purely wishful thinking and grandstanding,” Zhao said. “If the U.S. side is bent on going its own way, China will take firm countermeasures.”
He added a boycott would be “a serious stain on the spirit of the Olympic Charter,” as well as “a naked political provocation, and a serious offense to the 1.4 billion Chinese people,” according to NBC News.
Zhao said China would take “resolute countermeasures” to any boycott, adding it would impact “China-U.S. dialogue and cooperation in important fields,” according to NBC News.
Last month, the White House said they were weighing options of a diplomatic boycott, CNN reported.
Politicians and human rights activists have called for a full boycott of the Beijing Olympics in response to China’s human rights violations and abuses, including their crackdown in recent years on pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong, China’s policies with Tibet and Taiwan as well as genocidal actions against Uyghur Muslims in the province of Xinjiang, NBC News reported.
The State Department, as well as some European nations, has classified China’s actions against Uyghurs as “genocide,” NBC News reported.
“We have serious concerns about the human rights abuses that we’ve seen,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in October.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for a diplomatic boycott in May, saying: “We cannot proceed as if nothing is wrong about the Olympics going to China.”
“The last three decades have made it clear that we cannot continue to give Beijing a blank check on the hope that their behavior will simply change,” she added.
President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping did not discuss the Olympics when the two met for a virtual summit last month, according to the White House.