China accused the US on Tuesday of violating the Olympic spirit by announcing a US diplomatic boycott of the February Winter Games in Beijing over human rights issues.
The Biden administration’s decision not to send officials was made “out of ideological bias and based on lies and rumours,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters. The boycott “seriously violates the principle of political neutrality of sports as enshrined in the Olympic Charter and violates the Olympic motto ‘More united’.”
As he did the previous day, Zhao vowed that China would respond with “resolute countermeasures”, but gave no details.
“The US will pay a price for its practices. You can stay tuned for follow-ups,” Zhao said.
His comments came amid a barrage of Chinese criticism of the Biden administration’s announcement on Monday.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday that the government would fully support U.S. athletes competing in the Games, but would not send U.S. diplomats or officials.
Psaki said the US has a “fundamental commitment to promoting human rights” and that the US “will not contribute to the fanfare of the Games”.
The diplomatic boycott comes as the US seeks to stabilize turbulent relations with Beijing while taking a crackdown on trade and conflict over China’s actions against Taiwan, Hong Kong, the South China Sea and its treatment of ethnic minorities, especially Muslim Uyghurs.
Beijing has counter-attacked US criticism and punitive sanctions, denouncing them as meddling in its domestic affairs and banning US politicians it considers anti-China.
Zhao called on the US to “stop politicizing sports” and stop actions that he believes undermine the Winter Olympics. “Otherwise it undermines dialogue and cooperation between the two countries on a number of key areas and international issues,” he said.
The Chinese embassy in Washington tweeted that politicians calling for a boycott were “doing so for their own political interests and prejudices.”
“In fact, no one would care whether these people come or not, and it will have no bearing on the success of #Beijing2022,” the embassy said.
China’s mission to the United Nations called the boycott a “self-directed political farce.”
“The US only wants to politicize sport, create division and provoke confrontation,” it said.
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Even the ruling Communist Party’s notoriously opaque Central Commission for Discipline Inspection gave an answer in the form of a long screed on its website titled “The Spirit of the Olympic Charter Cannot Be Affected”.
“Some Western anti-Chinese politicians” have displayed a “defensive Cold War mentality aimed at politicizing sports,” the article said, calling it a “clear violation of the Olympic spirit and a challenge to all people who keep the Olympic movement.”
It was not clear who had sent Washington an official delegation to the Games, and Zhao said on Monday that China had not issued any invitations.
Other major countries have yet to say whether they will follow the US lead. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Tuesday that Japan will make its own decision “from the perspective of national interests, taking into account the importance of the Olympic Games and the importance of Japanese diplomacy. That is the basic attitude of our country.”
Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics in July.
Japanese Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said it remained unclear what the US diplomatic boycott means and that a decision on the presence of Japanese officials would be made “at an opportune time.”
“In any case, Japan hopes that the Winter Games will be held in Beijing as a celebration of peace in accordance with the principles of the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Matsuno said.
Sending high-level delegations to every Olympics has long been a tradition among the US and other leading countries. Then-President George W. Bush attended the opening of the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. First Lady Jill Biden led the US contingent to the Tokyo Olympics and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff led a delegation to the Paralympic Games.