The Biden administration is set to announce that neither the president nor any other US government officials will attend the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022, a report says.
Citing several sources familiar with the plans, The Washington Post reports that a diplomatic boycott is intended as a protest against the Chinese government’s human rights abuses without preventing US athletes from competing.
A formal recommendation has been made to President Joe Biden and he is expected to approve it before the end of November.
The timing of the announcement is said to not be linked to the virtual meeting on Monday evening between Mr Biden and Chinese president Xi Jinping.
Reports ahead of the meeting suggested that Mr Xi intended to bring up the Olympics during the meeting and even personally invite him to attend, but the issue was not discussed during the meeting according to a senior administration official.
A White House readout of the virtual meeting does state: “President Biden raised concerns about the [People’s Republic of China’s] practices in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, as well as human rights more broadly.”
There has been no prior word from the administration on the possibility of a boycott. Human rights groups and activists have called for a full athlete boycott.
In May, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for a diplomatic boycott to protest China’s human rights record without punishing US athletes.
Senator Mitt Romney, who oversaw the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002, also called for an economic and diplomatic boycott in a New York Times op-ed in March, arguing a full boycott would be counterproductive.
He cited President Jimmy Carter’s decision to boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics as having handed the Soviet Union a propaganda victory.
It is not known if any US diplomatic boycott would be mirrored by similar action by Washington’s allies or if the move would be unilateral.
When Beijing last hosted the Olympics in 2008, President George W Bush accepted an invitation to attend despite China’s crackdown in Tibet. In a sign of support for human rights causes, the previous year he hosted the Dalai Lama and awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal.
Both the Biden and Trump administrations characterised the Chinese government’s abuses against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang province as an ongoing “genocide”.
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