WASHINGTON: The United States said on Monday it would not send government officials to the Beijing Winter Olympics in February due to China’s human rights “atrocities”, after Beijing pledged unspecified “countermeasures” against any diplomatic boycott.

President Joe Biden said last month that he was considering such a boycott amid criticism of China’s human rights record.

“The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games given the PRC’s human rights abuses,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told a daily press briefing, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

The diplomatic boycott, which has been encouraged by some members of the US Congress for months, would not affect the attendance of American athletes, she said.

“The athletes on Team USA have our full support. We will be behind them 100 percent as we cheer them on from home.”

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a news briefing earlier in Beijing that those calling for a boycott are “grandstanding” and should stop “so as not to affect the dialogue and cooperation between China and the United States in important areas”.

“If the US insists in wilfully clinging to its course, China will take resolute countermeasures,” he said, without elaborating.

The United States is due to host an Olympics in 2028 in Los Angeles, raising the question of how China might respond in the interim.

Beijing says it opposes the politicisation of sports, but it has punished American sports leagues in the past, including the National Basketball Association, for running afoul of its political red lines.

Sarah Hirshland, chief executive of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said in a statement following the boycott announcement that Team USA was “excited and ready to make the nation proud”.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2021

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