China dismisses US Olympic boycott threat

The Beijing Winter Olympic Games is facing a diplomatic boycott from Western nations.
The Beijing Winter Olympic Games is facing a diplomatic boycott from Western nations.

China has described as "a pretentious act" an announcement from the United States that it will not send government officials to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

President Joe Biden last month said he was considering a diplomatic boycott amid criticism of China's human rights record. On Monday the White House acted on the threat.

"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," Biden's press secretary Jen Psaki said, referring to the People's Republic of China.

The diplomatic boycott would not affect the attendance of American athletes.

China's embassy in Washington hit back at the announcement, saying it was a "political manipulation" and would have no effect.

"No invitation has been extended to US politicians whatsoever, so this 'diplomatic boycott' simply comes out of nowhere," embassy official Liu Pengyu said in a written statement.

"Such a pretentious act is only a political manipulation and a grave distortion of the spirit of the Olympic Charter. In fact, no one would care about whether these people come or not, and it has no impact whatsoever on the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics to be successfully held."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the United States has been consulting with allies on a "shared approach" to the Beijing Games.

In Australia, Liberal senator Eric Abetz has called for government officials to follow suit and not attend the games.

"I trust other freedom-loving countries like Australia will also make a stance in solidarity," the Tasmanian senator told ABC Radio on Tuesday.

"Taking a stand with a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics is the right way to go, so I'm absolutely delighted Joe Biden's administration has taken the lead."

Employment Minister Stuart Robert told reporters in Sydney a diplomatic boycott was "under active consideration" by the government.

New Zealand said they alerted China in October they would not be sending diplomatic representatives to the games, citing COVID-19 concerns.

"There was a range of factors but mostly to do with COVID, and the fact that the logistics of travel and so on around COVID are not conducive to that kind of trip," Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said on Tuesday, adding the nation has also communicated its concerns over human rights.

"We've made clear to China on numerous occasions our concerns about human rights issues - as recently as the Prime Minister talking to President Xi," Mr Robertson said.

"They're well aware of our view on human rights."

Stefano Sannino, chief of the European Union's diplomatic service, said on Friday after meetings with US officials in Washington it was important to keep up pressure on China over abuses in Xinjiang, but any boycott was in the domain of individual members states, not common EU foreign policy.

Chinese officials say they have received more than 1500 applications from the US Olympic Committee, which is responsible for submitting names of athletes to attend the Winter Games, set for February.

Nonetheless, they cite strict COVID-19 restrictions for plans to limit spectator attendance, and Chinese state media have said Beijing does not intend to invite Western politicians who have threatened a boycott.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is the only leader of a major country who has so far accepted China's invitation to attend.

Australian Associated Press