US will ‘pay’ for diplomatic boycott of Olympics: China

The White House on Monday said government officials would boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing because of China’s human rights “atrocities”, although American athletes are free to compete
A man walks past the logos of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Winter Games in Shougang Park, one of the sites for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, in Beijing. (AFP)
A man walks past the logos of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Winter Games in Shougang Park, one of the sites for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, in Beijing. (AFP)
Published on Dec 07, 2021 04:37 PM IST
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BySutirtho Patranobis

China on Tuesday accused the US of violating the Olympic spirit by announcing a diplomatic boycott of February’s Beijing Winter Games, warning Washington that it will “pay for its practices”, in a new diplomatic feud that’s certain to further strain ties already at the lowest point in decades.

The White House on Monday said government officials would boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing because of China’s human rights “atrocities”, although American athletes are free to compete at the Games, which are to begin on February 4.

Reacting strongly to the boycott, the Chinese foreign ministry said Washington is attempting to interfere with the Winter Olympics “out of ideological prejudice and based on lies and rumours”.

China opposes the boycott and would take “resolute countermeasures”, foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at the regular ministry briefing on Tuesday without offering details.

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

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,’” Zhao said.

Zhao urged the US to stop bringing politics into sports, adding that the boycott went against Olympic principles.

According to Reuters, China’s embassy in Washington called the boycott “political manipulation” that would have no impact on the Games as no invitations had been extended to US politicians.

The White House had called China’s human rights record “egregious” on Monday.

“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 a daily press briefing.

“The athletes on Team USA have our full support,” Psaki added.

“We will be behind them 100% as we cheer them on from home,” Psaki was quoted as saying by Reuters.

The US diplomatic boycott comes less than a month after Chinese President Xi Jinping and US counterpart Joe Biden talked about avoiding conflict and jointly responding to global challenges like climate change as the two leaders met for more than 200 minutes via video link in November, the first such meeting since Biden became president in January.

Ties between the countries in recent years have been deeply acrimonious over wide-ranging issues including alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Tibet, Beijing’s crackdown on the democracy protests in Hong Kong and Washington’s ties with self-ruled Taiwan, which China sees as interference in its internal matters, and trade.

Meanwhile, countries like Canada, Australia and Japan were still discussing internally their positions on the Games.

New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said his country would not send government officials but that decision was based largely on Covid-19 concerns and preceded the US boycott, according to agency reports.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sutirtho Patranobis has been in Beijing since 2012, as Hindustan Times’ China correspondent. He was previously posted in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he covered the final phase of the civil war and its aftermath. Patranobis covered several beats including health and national politics in Delhi before being posted abroad.

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