No U.S. government officials will attend the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing in an effort by the Biden administration to call attention to China’s human-rights abuses against Muslim ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced the boycott on Monday, explaining that while American athletes would still be able to compete in the Games, there would be no diplomatic delegation of U.S. officials accompanying them.
“The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic games given the PRC’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human-rights abuses,” Psaki said, explaining that the U.S. government “will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games,” and that the White House feels the boycott “sends a clear message.”
U.S. Olympic officials had opposed any attempt the idea of preventing American athletes from going to the Games, which some China hawks, like GOP senator Tom Cotton, had been calling for as well. “I don’t think we felt it was the right step to penalize athletes who have been training, preparing for this moment,” Psaki said Monday. In addition to China’s persecution of the Uighurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities, calls for a boycott had also been fueled by China’s crackdown on the democracy advocates in Hong Kong, as well as the plight of Peng Shuai, a top women’s tennis player in China who wasn’t seen publicly for weeks after she accused a top former government official of sexual assault.
The Biden administration has made it clear in recent weeks that it was considering the largely symbolic boycott, and the spokesman for China’s foreign ministry had vowed the Chinese government would “take resolute countermeasures” if the U.S. went through with it — though it’s not clear what those would actually be. “This wishful thinking and pure grandstanding is aimed at political manipulation,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in response to the move on Monday, additionally claiming that the Games “is not a stage for political posturing and manipulation.”