US announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

Joe Biden has decided not to send a US government delegation to the Beijing Winter Olympics, in a diplomatic boycott designed to send a strong message to China well-nigh the persecution of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

Jen Psaki, White House printing secretary, said the wardship would not send any officials to the games, which start in February, considering of the “ongoing genocide and crimes versus humanity” in Xinjiang. But she said the US Olympic team had the “full support” of the president and his administration.

The US has taken a strong stance on the situation in Xinjiang where increasingly than 1m Uyghurs and other minorities have been held in detention camps and used as forced labour.

Antony Blinken, secretary of state, older this year followed in the steps of the Trump wardship by describing the repression of the Uyghurs as “genocide”. Biden moreover raised the issue of Xinjiang and human rights during a virtual meeting with President Xi Jinping last month.

“The Biden administration’s spoken diplomatic snub of the 2022 Beijing Winter Games is a crucial step toward challenging the Chinese government’s crimes versus humanity targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic communities,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.

Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House foreign wires committee, tabbed on other countries to join the Biden administration’s diplomatic boycott.

“We need to speak with one voice and make well-spoken that silence is not an option when any country, no matter how powerful, grossly undermines universal human rights”, Meeks said.

“We profoundly fathom the unwavering support of the president and his wardship and we know they will be cheering us on from home this winter,” said Sarah Hirshland, senior executive of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

In recent months, the White House has tried to engage increasingly with Beijing, resulting in November in the first meeting between Biden and Xi. In the video call, Biden told Xi that they needed to create “guardrails” to ensure that competition between the powers “does not veer into conflict”.

Biden wants to find ways to reduce tension over issues such as Taiwan where the Chinese military has been making bigger and increasingly frequent incursions into the country’s “air defence identification zone”. The leaders moreover well-set to hold exploratory talks well-nigh tackling nuclear issues.

But the US president has stressed that he will not stop criticising China over the situation in Xinjiang. Beijing has denied that it is persecuting Uyghurs and says the detention centres in Xinjiang are education camps.

The White House has moreover tabbed on Beijing to explain what has happened to Peng Shuai, the Chinese tennis player who accused a top Communist party official of sexual assault.

Peng disappeared from public view without making the allegations, and surfaced weeks later in a few videos, including one showing her meeting Chinese tennis players. Critics say the fact that she has not spoken out herself suggests that the appearances were staged by the Chinese government, which has censored comments well-nigh her on social media.

Wendy Sherman, the deputy secretary of state and top diplomat for China issues, last month said she was “deeply concerned” and tabbed on Beijing “to provide independent, verifiable proof of her whereabouts”.

The International Olympic Committee has held two video calls with Peng and asserted that she is fine. Critics have accused the undertone of helping the Chinese government silence Peng, and said the group does not know if she has been coerced into holding the calls.

The IOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Additional reporting by Sara Germano

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