By Gabriel Crossley and Yew Lun Tian
BEIJING (Reuters) -The United States will have to “pay a price” for its diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, China said Tuesday, just weeks after talks aimed at easing tense relations between the two nations.
On Monday, the White House said US government officials would boycott the Winter Olympics because of China’s “atrocities” on human rights, although US athletes are free to travel there to compete.
The US boycott, which has been encouraged for months by some members of Congress and human rights groups, comes despite efforts to stabilize ties, with a video meeting last month between US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
China opposes the boycott and would “take resolute countermeasures,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular media briefing in Beijing on Tuesday.
“The United States will pay a price for its wrongdoing,” he said without giving details. “Let’s all wait and see.”
The United States will host the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and is preparing a bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Asked if China would consider a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics in the United States, Zhao said the US boycott had damaged “the foundation and atmosphere” of sports exchange and cooperation at the Games, which he compared to “lifting up a stone to crush”. own foot”.
He called on the United States to keep politics out of the sport and said the boycott was against Olympic principles.
Chinese media and scientists criticized the US boycott.
“It is foolish and foolish for the United States to do this,” Wang Wen, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing, told Reuters, adding that other major powers could do the same to Washington when it came to Washington. the United States to host the Games. .
“For the US politicians who were not invited to say they are organizing a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, that is simply ‘expressing unrequited love,'” state news agency Xinhua said in a comment.
The Biden administration cited as the reason for the boycott what Washington calls genocide against Muslim minorities in China’s far western region of Xinjiang.
China denies all rights violations.
“The US diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in light of the PRC’s flagrant human rights violations and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we just can’t do that,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday. , referring to the People’s Republic of China.
“Team USA athletes have our full support,” Psaki added during a media briefing. “We will be 100% behind them if we encourage them from home.”
George W. Bush was the last US president to attend an opening ceremony of the Games, hosting in Salt Lake City in 2004. Vice President Mike Pence attended the 2018 Winter Games in the South Korean resort of Pyeongchang.
It was unclear whether other countries would join the United States, although US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said allies were being consulted on a “shared approach”.
Canada’s Foreign Ministry said it remains “deeply concerned by the disturbing reports of human rights violations in China” and continues to discuss the issue with partners and allies.
The Australian and Japanese governments have said they will also consider their positions.
New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said the country would not send government officials, but that decision was based largely on concerns about COVID-19 and predated the US boycott.
Last week, Stefano Sannino, head of the European Union’s diplomatic service, said boycotts are a matter for individual member states, not the EU’s common foreign policy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is the only leader of a major country to accept an invitation.
Human rights groups welcomed the move but said Washington could do more to hold China accountable.
However, some political analysts said the boycott was less of a threat to the Games and more of a make-believe issue that Beijing fueled by threatening retaliation.
“It would have been a non-story, let alone,” said Lisa Delpy Neirotti, professor of sports management at George Washington University School of Business.
“Normally we don’t send a large government delegation anyway, especially in COVID times.”
The diplomatic boycott puts Olympic sponsors of companies in “an awkward spot” but raised less concern than a full measure banning athletes, said Neal Pilson, a former CBS Sports president who oversaw the Olympics broadcast rights agreements.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters the government would not dictate private sector practices, but said companies should be “fully aware” of events in Xinjiang.
A spokesperson for Comcast-owned NBCUniversal said it would broadcast the Games as scheduled.
(Reporting by Gabriel Crossley and Yew Lun Tian; editing by Clarence Fernandez)