China accuses US of violating Olympic spirit through diplomatic boycott

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the US has a ‘fundamental commitment to promoting human rights’.

How Beijing Landed Olympics Explainer
How Beijing Landed Olympics Explainer

China has accused the United States of violating the Olympic spirit after the Biden administration announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Games amid human rights concerns.

Campaigners have pushed for a full-blown boycott of the Games, accusing China of rights abuses against ethnic minorities.

The US decision falls short of these calls but comes at an exceptionally turbulent time for relations between the powerhouse nations and was met with a barrage of criticism from China.

A woman takes photos near the logos for the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing
The White House said it would ‘not be contributing to the fanfare of the Games’ (Ng Han Guan/AP)

The US was attempting to interfere with the Beijing Games “out of ideological prejudice and based on lies and rumours,” foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters.

The boycott “seriously violates the principle of political neutrality of sports established by the Olympic Charter and runs counter to the Olympic motto ‘more united’,” the spokesman said.

As he did the previous day, Mr Zhao vowed that China would respond with “resolute countermeasures” but offered no details.

“The US will pay a price for its practices. You may stay tuned for follow-ups,” Mr Zhao added.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China would respond with ‘resolute countermeasures’ (Liu Zheng/AP)

On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the Biden administration would fully support US athletes competing at the Games but would not dispatch diplomats or officials to attend.

Ms Psaki said the US had a “fundamental commitment to promoting human rights” and that it “will not be contributing to the fanfare of the Games”.

The diplomatic boycott comes as the US attempts to thread the needle between stabilising difficult relations with Beijing and maintaining a tough stance on trade and political conflicts.

The US has accused China of human rights abuses against Muslim Uighurs in northwest Xinjiang province, suppressing democratic movements in Hong Kong, committing military aggression against the self-ruled island of Taiwan and more.

Other major countries have yet to say if they will follow the American lead.

China Winter Paralympics
Performers take part in a ceremony to mark 100 days until the opening of the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games at the National Aquatics Centre in Beijing (Andy Wong/AP)

Beijing has denounced US criticisms and punitive sanctions as interference in its internal affairs and placed visa bans on American politicians it regards as anti-China.

Mr Zhao warned the US to “stop politicising sports” and cease what he said were actions undermining the Beijing Winter Olympics, “otherwise it will undermine the dialogue and co-operation between the two countries in a series of important areas and international issues”.

The dispatching of high-level delegations to each Olympics has long been a tradition among the US and other leading nations.

Then-US president George W Bush attended the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Summer Games, while First lady Jill Biden led the American contingent to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo this year.

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