President Joe Biden told reporters on Nov. 18 that the U.S. is considering a diplomatic boycott of next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing over reports of human rights abuse in China.
The President explained while hosting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, that the move would keep American dignitaries, but not athletes, from partaking in the Games. Although no official confirmation has been announced, Biden said it was “something we are considering.”
The U.S. and other nations traditionally send high-level delegations to each Olympic games. For the Summer Olympics held in Tokyo this year, First lady Jill Biden embarked on her first international solo trip leading an American contingent, while second gentleman Doug Emhoff also led a delegation to the Paralympic Games in August.
International advocacy and human rights groups, including some members of Congress have called for a symbolic U.S. boycott of the Games over the Chinese Communist Party’s treatment of Xinjiang Uyghurs and its crackdown on civil rights freedoms in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Human rights activists have also urged the International Olympics Committee to postpone or relocate next year’s events, dubbing the upcoming Beijing Olympics as the “Genocide Games.”
According to reports by BBC and the New York Times, an estimated 1 million Uyghur Muslims are currently incarcerated across mass concentration camps in Western China. Alleged reports of systemic rape, abuse and even genocide have been reported.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian responded to Biden’s remarks today, expressing during a press conference that it is wrong for the President to politicize the Games.
“The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and the Paralympics are the stage for athletes from all over the world,” Zhao said. “Politicizing sports is against the Olympic spirit and harms the interests of athletes from all countries.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at a daily briefing on Nov. 18 that there was no current timeline for when the decision would be made and reiterated the President’s sentiments that, “There are areas that we do have concerns: human rights abuses. We have serious concerns.”
Psaki also confirmed that this conversation did not come up during the virtual meeting held between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Biden on Nov. 15.