A Chinese flag flutters near the Olympic rings on the Olympic Tower in Beijing, China November 11, 2021.
Carlos Garcia Rawlins | Reuters
The U.S. on Monday announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, a move that had garnered bipartisan support from critics of China’s human rights record.
While U.S. athletes will still participate, President Joe Biden’s administration will not send any official representation to the games, given China’s “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
Psaki was referring to China’s reported treatment of Uighur Muslims in that northwestern territory that has been declared a genocide both by Biden and the administration of former President Donald Trump.
“The athletes on Team USA have our full support. We will be behind them 100 percent as we cheer them on from home. We will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games,” Psaki said.
“U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the [People’s Republic of China’s] egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply can’t do that,” she said.
“We will continue to take actions to advance human rights in China and beyond,” she said.
The move, which was expected, was preemptively criticized earlier Monday by China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. “It is a travesty of the Olympic spirit, it is political provocation, and an offense to the 1.4 billion Chinese people,” he said, according to a translation of his remarks.
“If the U.S. is insistent on going down the wrong path, China will take necessary and resolute countermeasures,” Zhao said.
The Chinese government under President Xi Jinping has been condemned by dozens of countries over its actions in Xinjiang, as well as its crackdown against pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong in 2019 and 2020.
More recently, Beijing has come under fire following the weekslong disappearance of tennis star Peng Shuai, who vanished after publicly accusing a former senior official in the Chinese Communist Party of sexual assault.
The Women’s Tennis Association announced last week it will suspend tournaments in China immediately due to concerns over the treatment and safety of Peng and other players.
Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through 2032.