The United States said on Dec. 6 it won’t send an official delegation to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics in protest against the Chinese regime’s ongoing human rights crisis in Xinjiang.
The move won’t affect American athletes, who will still be allowed to compete.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the regime’s “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity” means Washington “cannot proceed with business as usual.”
“U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply can’t do that,” Psaki told a daily press briefing on Dec. 6, weeks after President Joe Biden said the administration was considering such a move.
“As the president has told President Xi, standing up for human rights is in the DNA of Americans, we have a fundamental commitment to promote human rights,” she added, referring to Chinese leader Xi Jinping. The two leaders had met for the first time virtually on Nov. 15.
The Chinese regime’s expansive campaign of repression against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the far west Xinjiang region, which has been designated by the United States and others as a genocide, has drawn rising international condemnation. Activists and lawmakers around the world have called for varying levels of boycotts of the Beijing Games in response.
The last time the United States staged an Olympic boycott was in 1980. Then-President Jimmy Carter led more than 60 nations to protest the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan and refused to send athletes to compete in the Summer Olympic Games in Moscow, forming the largest boycott in Olympic history.
The boycott, Psaki stressed, does not signify “the end of the concerns we will raise about human rights abuses in Xinjiang.”
Unlike the 1980 diplomatic protest, the boycott next February won’t affect the athletes in attendance.
“We don’t think it’s the right step to penalize athletes who have been training, preparing for this moment, we felt we could send a clear message by not sending an official delegation,” Psaki said when asked why the White House hadn’t taken a step further by pulling out the athletes.
“The athletes on Team USA have our full support. We will be behind them 100 percent as we cheer them on from home,” Psaki said.
By Eva Fu