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The Biden administration will not send any “diplomatic or official representation” to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Monday, amid the People’s Republic of China’s “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity” in Xinjiang.
Beijing is set to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in February. Human rights activists and congressional Republicans have called for a boycott of the event amid international criticism of China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the northwest region of Xinjiang, its crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong, and its policies toward Tibet and Taiwan.
During a White House press briefing, Psaki said the athletes on Team USA “have our full support,” but an official delegation will not travel to the games.
“The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, given the PRC’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses,” Psaki said.
“The athletes on Team USA have our fully support, we will be behind them 100% as we cheer them on from home,” Psaki said.
Psaki added that the United States “will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games.”
“U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the PRC’s egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply can’t do that,” Psaki said.
She added: “As the president has told President Xi, standing up for human rights is in the DNA of Americans.”
Psaki noted that the Biden administration has a “fundamental commitment to promoting human rights,” and feels “strongly in our position.”
“We will continue to take actions to advance human rights in China and beyond,” Psaki said.
The Biden administration in March sanctioned Chinese government officials over the “serious human rights abuse” against ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and warned, at the time, that China would continue to face consequences should the “atorocities” continue.
Congressional Republicans, for months, had urged the Biden administration to discuss moving the Olympic Games out of Beijing.
State Department spokesman Ned Price on Monday also doubled down on the White House’s announcement, saying that the move “does not modulate at all our support for team USA.”
“We will be behind them 100% We will be cheering them on. But of course, we will not have any official or diplomatic representation that would send a signal that these games represent anything akin to business as usual, in the face of these ongoing atrocities, crimes against humanity in the ongoing genocide,” Price said.
The State Department said that its “top priority” is the “safety and security of the American people,” and said it intends to provide “consular and diplomatic security services to ensure our athletes, coaches, trainers, staff associated with the U.S. Olympic team, that they are secure, that they have access to American citizen services, that we provide as a routine matter to all Americans overseas,” but maintained that is a “separate matter from official diplomatic representation.”
As for other nations following suit, Price said the decision is a “sovereign decision that each country needs to make.”
“We fully expect that other countries will announce their decision in the coming days and weeks,” Price said. “What we know today is that there are many countries around the world, including many of our closest allies, who share these concerns.”
Prior to the Biden administration’s formal announcement, China threatened to take “firm countermeasures” should the United States proceed with its diplomatic boycott of the Olympic games.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian accused U.S. politicians of grandstanding over the issue of not sending dignitaries to attend the events that China hopes will showcase its economic development and technological prowess.
Speaking to reporters at a daily briefing, Zhao said such a move would be an “outright political provocation,” but gave no details on how China would retaliate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.