WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department said Tuesday the Biden administration is considering a possible boycott of the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics to protest China’s human rights record.
Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. is consulting with like-minded countries around the world to determine how to proceed. Price says the administration is discussing China strategy, including participation in the Olympics, with a number of partners and allies in order to present a united front.
“Part of our review of those Olympics and our thinking will involve close consultations with partners and allies around the world,” he told reporters. “We have consistently said when it comes to our concerns with the government in Beijing, including Beijing’s egregious human rights violations, its conduct of genocide in the case of Xingjiang, that what the United States does is meaningful, what the United States does will have impact, but everything we do that brings along our allies and partners will have all the more influence with Beijing.”
Human rights groups are protesting China’s hosting of the Games, which are set to start in February 2022. They have urged a diplomatic or straight-up boycott of the event to call attention to alleged Chinese abuses against Uyghurs, Tibetans, and residents of Hong Kong.
Price declined to say when a decision might be made, but noted there is still almost a year until the Games are set to begin.
“These Games remain some time away. I wouldn’t want to put a timeframe on it, but these discussions are underway,” he said. “It is something that we certainly wish to discuss and it is certainly something that we understand that a coordinated approach will be not only in our interest, but also in the interest of our allies and partners. So this is one of the issues that is on the agenda, both now and going forward.”
The Beijing Winter Olympics open on Feb. 4, 2022 and China has denied all charges of human rights abuses. It says “political motives” underlie the boycott effort.
Rights groups have met with the International Olympic Committee and have been told the Olympic body must stay politically “neutral.” They have been told by the IOC that China has given “assurances” about human rights conditions.
Both the IOC and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee have said in the past they oppose boycotts.
In March, IOC president Thomas Bach said history shows that boycotts never achieve anything. “It also has no logic,” he said. “Why would you punish the athletes from your own country if you have a dispute with a government from another country? This just makes no real sense.”
The USOPC has questioned the effectiveness of boycotts. “We oppose Games boycotts because they have been shown to negatively impact athletes while not effectively addressing global issues,” it said. “We believe the more effective course of action is for the governments of the world and China to engage directly on human rights and geopolitical issues.”