During a press briefing Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that the U.S. government delegation will boycott the winter Olympic Games in Beijing over the Chinese regime’s numerous human rights abuses, most recently the presumed suppression of decorated tennis star Peng Shuai.
“The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 winter Olympics and Paralympic Games given the PRC’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses. 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.
Per her announcement, American competitors will still participate in the tournament but without U.S. government presence. The decision had been expected for months, and was technically set in stone weeks ago, but Psaki’s statement marked official U.S. diplomatic withdrawal from the event.
The news of the U.S. quasi-boycott elicited a strong reaction from Chinese officials when it reached Beijing.
“This severely tarnishes the spirit of the Olympic Charter,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Monday. “It’s a naked political provocation, and more, a serious offense to 1.4 billion Chinese people.”
Zhao added that “if the U.S. insists on going its own way, China must take resolute countermeasures” but did not specify what kind, if any, retaliation there would be.
The last full American boycott of the Olympics was in 1984, when Team USA refused to compete in the Moscow games in protest of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.
Psaki’s announcement comes on the heels of President Biden’s recent phone call with Chinese president Xi Jinping, in which he attempted to ease tensions and find common ground, specifically on the issue of climate change, between the two increasingly adversarial nations. Biden had deliberated a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games since November at the urging of human rights organizations and lawmakers who had pointed out the ethical conflict of interest in collaborating with a country with a notorious human rights record.
In recent years, China has been called out by many western countries for its censorship of its own citizens, its oppression of pro-freedom activists in Hong Kong, and the religious persecution, mass detention, and genocide it has committed against the Uighur Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region. The mounting atrocities and discontent with the Chinese regime has weighed heavily on U.S. reasoning for skipping the Beijing Olympics.
Last week, the Women’s Tennis Association suspended tournaments in China and Hong Kong to protest the regime’s presumed abuse and detainment of tennis star Peng Shuai, who disappeared from public view after she leveled sexual assault allegations against a former prominent Chinese government official. Shuai has not yet appeared on camera to prove that she is safe and not being harmed, despite the Chinese Tennis Association and International Olympic Committee’s assurances.