December 2, 2021

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Biden says he is ‘considering’ diplomatic boycott of 2022 Beijing Olympics – NBC News

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Thursday that his administration was considering a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Asked by reporters about the possibility of the boycott during an Oval Office meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, Biden responded that it was “something we are considering.”

A diplomatic boycott suggests that the U.S. would not send an official government delegation to the Games but would still allow U.S. athletes to compete, although White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to say how the president defined it.

Human rights advocates have been urging countries to hold China accountable for its record on human rights by skipping the Games, calling the Beijing Olympics the “genocide games.”

China has been criticized for cracking down on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, detaining and abusing Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang — which the State Department, along with some European counties, has classified as “genocide” — as well as its policies towards Tibet and Taiwan.

“We have serious concerns about the human rights abuses that we’ve seen,” Psaki said.

Chinese government officials have warned of a “robust Chinese response” to any potential boycotts.

Activists rally in front of the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles on November 3, 2021, calling for a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics due to concerns over China’s human rights record.Frederic J. Brown / AFP – Getty Images

White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said Tuesday that President Joe Biden did not raise the possibility of the boycott during a three-and-a-half-hour video conference meeting Monday night with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Rumors had been circulating that Xi would use the meeting to invite Biden to attend the Games in-person.

The State Department denied in April that the U.S. was discussing with its allies the possibility of a joint boycott after spokesperson Ned Price told reporters during a press briefing that it was something the U.S. hoped to talk about with its partners and that a “coordination approach” would be in the U.S. interest.

Some Republican lawmakers, who have grown increasingly hawkish towards China, had been pressuring the Biden administration to boycott the 2022 Games or push for China’s host status to be revoked and for the games to be moved to a different country. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., on Thursday urged the administration to boycott the Olympics, including keeping athletes from competing.

In a March opinion piece for the New York Times, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, arguing for a diplomatic boycott of the Games, wrote that “it is increasingly clear that China, under the control of the Chinese Communist Party does not deserve an Olympic showcase.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has also voiced support for a diplomatic boycott.

The International Olympic Committee has said that policing human rights records of host countries is out of its scope. In an October speech, IOC president Thomas Bach argued that the Games should be “respected as politically neutral ground.”

The U.S. led a full boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, barring athletes from participating. The Soviet Union retaliated in 1984, boycotting the Olympics in Los Angeles. The last full boycott was in 1988, when North Korea and its allies did not attend the Seoul Olympics.

The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are scheduled to begin on Feb. 4 and only spectators from mainland China will be allowed to attend due to the Covid pandemic.

Beijing is the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics.

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