Road To The Olympic Games

Olympics

China warns U.S. against boycotting Beijing Olympics

China's government warned Washington on Wednesday not to boycott next year's Winter Olympics in Beijing after the Biden administration said it was talking with allies about a joint approach to complaints of human rights abuses.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson threatens 'robust response' to potential action

A security guard patrols at a viewing platform of the Olympics Tower in Beijing in February. On Wednesday, China threatened a "robust response" should the U.S. boycott the 2022 Games. (Andy Wong/The Associated Press)

China's government warned Washington on Wednesday not to boycott next year's Winter Olympics in Beijing after the Biden administration said it was talking with allies about a joint approach to complaints of human rights abuses.

A Foreign Ministry spokesperson rejected accusations of abuses against ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region. He warned of an unspecified "robust Chinese response" to a potential Olympics boycott.

"The politicization of sports will damage the spirit of the Olympic Charter and the interests of athletes from all countries," said the spokesperson, Zhao Lijian. "The international community including the U.S. Olympic Committee will not accept it."

Human rights groups are protesting China's hosting of the games, due to start in February 2022. They have urged a boycott or other measures to call attention to accusations of Chinese abuses against Uyghurs, Tibetans and residents of Hong Kong.

The U.S. State Department suggested an Olympic boycott was among the possibilities but a senior official said later a boycott has not been discussed. The International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee have said in the past they oppose boycotts.

That opposition was reiterated by Susanne Lyons, chair of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee board of directors, at a media summit Wednesday.

"We at the USOPC oppose athlete boycotts because they've been shown to negatively impact athletes while not effectively addressing global issues in the past," Lyons said. The committee doesn't wish to "minimize the serious human rights issues that are happening in China," but believes diplomats and trade and other government officials are better equipped to address such concerns and "young athletes should be used as political pawns in these issues," Lyons said.

Boycotts also put "unfair pressure" on corporate sponsors who provide the bulk of financial support for athletes and athletic programs over the long term, not just for specific events, she said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that the White House is not looking at a boycott of the 2022 Olympics.

"We have not discussed, and are not discussing, any joint boycott with allies and partners," she said.

When asked if the U.S. government would discourage Americans from travelling to China, Psaki said the Biden administration hopes that by the time of the event, "we are at a point where enough people across the country, and hopefully around the world have been vaccinated" against COVID-19.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?

now