United States announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics – Asia and the Pacific

Sarah Titterton (AFP)

Beijing, China ●
Tue, December 7, 2021

2021-12-07
4.30 p.m.
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Asia and pacific
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The United States has announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, a criticism of China’s human rights record that does not prevent American athletes from competing.

The move comes after Washington spent months wrangling over which position to take at the Games, held in February next year by a country it accuses of “genocide” against Uyghur Muslims in the northern region. -western Xinjiang.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry had previously threatened “resolute countermeasures” to such a boycott.

But in a low-key first reaction to Monday’s decision, the spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington said the boycott would have no impact on the Games and that “no one would care if these people come. or not”.

The move has been widely hailed by rights groups and politicians in the United States, where President Joe Biden has been pressured to speak out against Chinese rights violations.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration would not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Games given the “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and others. human rights violations “.

Sending an official performance would signal that the Games are going on as usual, Psaki said.

“And we just can’t do that.”

“The Team USA athletes have our full support. We will support them 100 percent as we cheer them on from home,” she added.

The International Olympic Committee qualified it as “a purely political decision for each government, which the IOC in its political neutrality fully respects”.

The announcement “also makes it clear that the Olympic Games and athlete participation are beyond politics and we welcome this,” said an IOC spokesperson.

High level diplomatic act

U.S.-Chinese relations reached a low point under Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump with a massive trade war and an inflammatory debate over how the Covid-19 virus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Biden has sought to reconnect with Beijing while focusing on strengthening traditional U.S. alliances to counter China’s growing economic clout and military presence in the Indo-Pacific region.

The boycott of the Olympics is part of a complex diplomatic balancing act.

The Biden administration has left Trump-era trade tariffs on China in place and continues to order naval patrols through sensitive international sea lanes that China is accused of trying to bring under its control.

However, with Biden also insisting on the need for dialogue, right-wing critics say he’s too soft.

This makes the looming Olympic Games a political flashpoint.

Team USA members, their coaches, coaches and other staff will always receive consular and diplomatic security assistance, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Asked about appeals to private companies to end all sponsorship of the Winter Games, he stressed that the decision was up to them.

“It is not in this country – unlike other countries – the role of government to dictate what practices the private sector should adopt,” Price said.

“Mighty rebuke”

Activists say at least a million Uyghurs and other Turkish-speaking minorities, mostly Muslims, have been held in camps in Xinjiang, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilizing women and having imposed forced labor.

Bob Menendez, chairman of the powerful US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, hailed the diplomatic boycott as “a powerful rebuke” of the “genocide in Xinjiang.”

He and top House foreign affairs official Gregory Meeks called on other countries to follow the United States’ lead.

Meeks warned that the international community should not help China “whitewash its atrocities against Uyghurs and other minorities.”

But Republican Senator Tom Cotton called it “a half-measure, when bold leadership is required.”

“The United States should totally boycott the ‘Genocide Games’ in Beijing,” he said in a statement.

The last full boycott of the Olympics by the United States dates back to 1980, when President Jimmy Carter stepped down to protest the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.

Human Rights Watch called the Biden administration’s decision “crucial” but called for more accountability “for those responsible for these crimes and justice for the survivors.”

Countermeasures?

Earlier Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian warned that the Games were “not a scene of political posture and manipulation” – in response to reports that a boycott could be imminent.

“If the United States is determined to go its own way, China will take resolute countermeasures,” he pledged.

Just six months after the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Summer Games, the Winter Olympics will be held February 4-20 in a “closed-loop” bubble due to Covid-19 restrictions.

“To be honest, the Chinese are relieved to hear the news because the fewer US officials there are, the fewer viruses there will be,” the Chinese public tabloid tweeted, World time.


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