The United States is considering a boycott of next year’s Olympic Games in China because of Beijing’s repression of minorities and other human rights abuses, the State Department said Tuesday.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. would consult with other countries to see if a joint boycott could be staged for the Winter Olympics, which are set to run Feb. 4 to 20, 2022, in Beijing.
He said the administration is considering such action, though a final decision has not been made.
“It is something that we certainly wish to discuss,” Price said in a briefing with reporters when asked about a boycott of the Games. “A coordinated approach (with other countries) would be not only in our interest but also in the interests of our allies and partners. So this is one of the issues that is on the agenda both now and going forward.”
Later, Price suggested he had been misinterpreted. “As I said, we don’t have any announcement regarding the Beijing Olympics,” he said on Twitter after the briefing. “2022 remains a ways off, but we will continue to consult closely with allies and partners to define our common concerns and establish our shared approach to the PRC,” he wrote, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
Both the Biden and the Trump administrations have labeled as genocide China’s attempts to control the Muslim Uyghur minority and deprive it of its cultural identity. China has also come under international pressure for its crackdowns on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.
In recent Chinese-U.S. talks in Alaska, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken pointed out several of China’s policies the U.S. sees as egregious, including cyberattacks on the U.S., aggression against Taiwan and China’s harsh repression of Uyghurs, actions that “threaten the rules-based order that maintains global stability.”
The Chinese delegation at last month’s Alaska meeting attacked the United States’ human rights record and called on the U.S. to stop attempting to export its version of democracy.
As China emerges as a world superpower, the U.S. and a number of Western nations accuse it of playing unfairly — of investment in Africa, Latin America and elsewhere that holds the regions hostage to impossible terms and of flexing military muscle in vulnerable parts of the world, such as the South China Sea.
U.S.-China relations have plummeted dramatically in recent years. Former President Donald Trump blamed China for the COVID-19 pandemic, often using racist terms to refer to the disease. President Joe Biden has been more measured in his rhetoric, suggesting China can be both a rival on issues like democracy and a collaborator on climate change and related matters.
Public opinion polls, meanwhile, have shown growing antipathy among U.S. residents toward the Chinese government, which is increasingly seen by those surveyed as an economic threat.
In recent months, Olympic leaders have attempted to get ahead of the controversy over the Beijing Games, recalling a time when the U.S. joined multiple countries in refusing to participate in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow because the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan. Nine years passed before the Soviets withdrew from that country.
“A boycott from the Olympic Games has never achieved anything,” Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, said during a recent news conference.
The boycott of the Moscow Games cost Bach and his German teammates a chance to defend their fencing title.
“Why would you punish the athletes from your own country if you have a dispute with another country?” he asked. “This makes no real sense.”