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China on US boycott of Winter Games

As Biden considers skipping Beijing Olympics, China says ‘political sport’ harms the mind, turning the games into a political flashpoint

Politicizing sport is against Olympic spirit, harms athletes' interests: China over US boycott of Winter Games

Representative image. News18

China’s foreign ministry on Friday accused the United States of violating the “Olympic spirit” after President Joe Biden said he was considering a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics over human rights violations.

“Politicizing sports is against the Olympic spirit and harms the interests of athletes from all countries,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a briefing.

President Joe Biden said Thursday that he is considering a US diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in what would be an effort to crack down on violations of Chinese rights without affecting US athletes.

That’s “something we’re considering,” Biden told reporters during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House. The Beijing Olympics will take place in February next year.

Biden’s comments followed a much-anticipated video summit with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping late Monday, in which the two leaders said they wanted to ensure stability and prevent accidental conflict.

The US president is under pressure at home to speak out about China’s human rights abuses, especially in the Xinjiang region, where the US administration says oppression of the Uyghur ethnic group is classed as genocide.

Campaigners say at least a million Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim, minorities are locked up in camps in Xinjiang, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilizing women and imposing forced labour.

China’s foreign ministry on Friday dismissed the rights allegations as “inconsistent with the truth and completely unfounded,” calling Washington’s claims a “joke in the eyes of the Chinese people.”

“Politicizing sports is against the Olympic spirit and harms the interests of athletes from all countries,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said during a regular press conference on Friday.

On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that the Biden administration would soon announce a diplomatic boycott, meaning that while athletes would still compete, government representatives would not sit in the stands.

White House officials said the issue was not raised at the virtual Biden-Xi summit.

balancing act
US-China relations bottomed out under Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump, with a massive trade war and inflammatory debate over how the COVID-19 The virus first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Biden has tried to reconnect with Beijing, while at the same time focusing on strengthening traditional US alliances to counter China’s expanding economic influence and military presence in the Indo-Pacific region.

He has had two lengthy phone conversations with Xi and was eager to meet him in person.

But with the Chinese leader not traveling outside the country since the start of the Covid pandemic, this week’s virtual summit was the only possible next step.

After Biden mentioned a possible boycott of the Olympics, press secretary Jen Psaki said she has “no update on what our presence will be.”

“I want to give the national security team and the president room to make the decision,” she said.

For Biden, that decision will be part of a complex diplomatic balancing act.

His administration has maintained trade tariffs on Trump-era China and continues to order naval patrols over sensitive international shipping routes that China is accused of trying to control.

However, while Biden also emphasizes the need for dialogue, critics on the right say he is being too soft.

This makes the approaching Olympics a political flashpoint.

“The United States must implement a full and total boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics. The threat to our athletes and China’s crimes against humanity leave us no other option,” Republican Senator Tom Cotton tweeted on Thursday.

Psaki said the White House sees US-China relations “through the prism of competition, not conflict.”

However, she added: “We are deeply concerned” about human rights.