Biden administration announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

In something of a surprise move, the Biden administration on Monday formalized its decision to mount a diplomatic boycott of the impending Winter Olympic games in Beijing as a means of protesting continued human rights abuses in China, as the Associated Press reports.

While American athletes will still compete in the contests, Washington will not be dispatching any official or diplomatic representatives “given [China’s] ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses,” as White House press secretary Jen Psaki explained to reporters, according to The Hill.

Such an arrangement, says Psaki, will afford U.S. competitors “full support” by cheering for them stateside without “contributing to the fanfare of the games.”

In response to the question of why the administration did not take the step of pulling U.S. athletes from competition all together, Psaki stated, “I don’t think that we felt it was the right step to penalize athletes who have been training, preparing for this moment and we felt that we could send a clear message by not sending an official U.S. delegation.”

The move was met with approval from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who characterized it as “a necessary step to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to human rights in the face of the Chinese government’s unconscionable abuses,” according to the AP.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also lauded Biden’s decision, but also decried the International Olympic Committee for “allowing a country notorious for its appalling human rights record to host the Olympics,” something she said “makes a mockery of the Olympic Charter, which states that the Games should seek to foster ‘respect for universal and fundamental ethical principles.’”

Less impressed, however, was Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who called the decision nothing more than a “half measure,” and added, “The United States should fully boycott the Genocide Games in Beijing.”

The Chinese reaction to the boycott was crystallized by Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, who lambasted what he described as an “outright political provocation,” stating that “without being invited, American politicians keep hyping the so-called diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, which is purely wishful-thinking and grandstanding.”

In the wake of the boycott announcements, Zhao further warned that “if the U.S. side is bent on going its own way, China will take firm countermeasures,” but precisely what form those might take remains anyone’s guess.