The Biden government has raised with allies the idea of boycotting the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing to protest the persecution of Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang province.
Ned Price, the spokesman for the US State Department, said the move was one of the options being considered when the Biden administration discussed its approach to China and the Beijing Olympics with allies.
When asked at a press conference whether the US was discussing a joint boycott, Price said, “It is something we definitely want to discuss. A coordinated approach is not only in our interest, but also in the interest of our allies and partners. So this is one of the topics on the agenda. ”
An official for an American ally said President Joe Biden’s team had raised the idea several times in preliminary talks about the Beijing Olympics as part of a wider discussion of how to deal with China.
But he stressed that there had been no detailed – or high-profile – talks about how the allies would handle the event, or whether a boycott referred to government delegations or an attempt to dissuade athletes from participating in the games.
China is facing increasing criticism over the situation in Xinjiang, where more than 1 million Muslim Uyghurs have been held in labor camps. Last week, the Biden government formally labeled Chinese policy in Xinjiang as “genocide” in the State Department’s annual report on human rights.
In response to his comments, Price wrote on Twitter that “we don’t have any announcements about the Beijing Olympics” and that the event was “a long way off.” A State Department official disputed the idea that Price had suggested that the US had discussed a boycott. “We have not yet discussed or discussed a joint boycott with allies and partners,” the official said.
The Olympics have come under discussion as the US and its allies take an increasingly tougher approach to Xinjiang. The US last month coordinated an action with the EU, UK and Canada to impose sanctions on Chinese officials involved in determining policy on Xinjiang, which led to retaliation from Beijing.
The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said Monday it was against any boycott. “They have been shown to negatively impact athletes while not effectively addressing global issues,” he said. “We believe the most effective course of action is for the governments of the world and China to address human rights and geopolitical issues directly.”
The US team’s last boycott was during the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The USOPC made the decision after pressure from the US Congress. The last US diplomatic boycott took place in 2014 when President Barack Obama did not send an official delegation to the Sochi Olympics in Russia.
The USOPC said Sarah Hirshland, the CEO, had spoken with the Biden administration about the status of preparations for the Tokyo Olympics this summer, but it was unclear whether they were discussing the Beijing games. The International Olympic Committee, which oversees both games, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The postponement of the Tokyo Games 2020 until this summer means that preparations for both events are taking place simultaneously. The Beijing Olympics are scheduled for February 2022.
Sports boards have been forced to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic as they prepare for both Olympics, postponing or rescheduling qualifying events in some cases.
In the US, which regularly sends one of the largest teams to the summer and winter games, many sports determine their delegations through team trials, such as those for swimming and athletics. International travel restrictions have made it more difficult for athletes in some sports, such as figure skating, to compete in global competitions before Beijing.
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