(BEIJING) — China accused the United States of violating the Olympic spirit on Tuesday after the Biden administration announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Games over human rights concerns.
The Games should be boycotted, rights groups demanded. They accuse China of committing human rights violations against minorities. Although the U.S.’s decision does not meet those demands, it comes at a very turbulent time in relations between powerhouse countries and has been met with an outpouring of criticism from China.
The U.S. is attempting to interfere with the Beijing Games “out of ideological prejudice and based on lies and rumors,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters.
The boycott “seriously violates the principle of political neutrality of sports established by the Olympic Charter and runs counter to the Olympic motto ‘more united,’” Zhao said.
As he did the previous day, Zhao vowed that China would respond with “resolute countermeasures” but offered no details.
“The U.S. will pay a price for its practices. You may stay tuned for follow-ups,” Zhao said.
On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the Biden administration will fully support U.S. athletes competing at the Games but won’t dispatch diplomats or officials to attend.
Psaki said the U.S. has a “fundamental commitment to promoting human rights” and that it “will not be contributing to the fanfare of the Games.”
This diplomatic boycott occurs as the U.S. tries to find a balance between stabilizing relations with Beijing and being tough on trade and political conflict. China is being accused of human rights violations by the U.S. in north Xinjiang, oppressing democracy in Hong Kong, and committing military aggression on Taiwan.
Beijing condemned the U.S.’s criticisms and putative sanctions as interference with its internal affairs. It also imposed visa bans upon American politicians it considers anti China.
Zhao warned the U.S. to “stop politicizing sports” and cease what he said were actions undermining the Beijing Winter Olympics, “otherwise it will undermine the dialogue and cooperation between the two countries in a series of important areas and international issues.”
Washington’s Chinese Embassy dismissed this move in a Tweet.
“In fact, no one would care about whether these people come or not, and it has no impact whatsoever on the #Beijing2022 to be successfully held,” the embassy said.
China’s mission to the United Nations called the boycott a “self-directed political farce.”
Even the ruling Communist Party’s notoriously opaque Central Commission for Discipline Inspection issued a response in the form of a lengthy screed on its website entitled “The Spirit of the Olympic Charter Cannot be Tarnished.”
“Some Western anti-China politicians” have shown a “defensive Cold War mentality aimed at politicizing sport,” the article said, calling that a “clear violation of the Olympic spirit and a challenge to all people who love the Olympic movement.”
The U.S.’s move was generally dismissed by Beijingers.
“I don’t think it matters at all if they would come or not. The Olympic Games are not about one country or a couple of countries,” said coffee shop employee Deng Tao.
“Such remarks from someone we never invited are simply a farce. And I don’t think it will have much impact on the holding of the Winter Olympics,” Lu Xiaolei, who works in trade.
It wasn’t clear which officials the U.S. might have sent to Beijing for the Games and Zhao said Monday that no invitation had been extended by China.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday that his country would be joining the U.S. diplomatic boycott. His relations with China are in decline in recent years.
New Zealand said Tuesday it won’t be attending the games at a diplomatic level, but that it made the decision earlier due mostly to pandemic travel restrictions.
The Chinese government informed the country in October that it would not send any ministers to its ministries, Grant Robertson, Deputy Prime Minister said.
“But we’ve made clear to China on numerous occasions our concerns about human rights issues,” Robertson said.
It was less obvious how the U.S. viewed its allies.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Tuesday that the country would make its own decision “from the perspective of national interests, taking into consideration the significance of the Olympic Games and the significance of Japan’s diplomacy.”
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said a decision on officials attending would be made “at an appropriate time.”
“In any case, Japan hopes that the Beijing Winter Games will be held as a celebration of peace in line with the principles of the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Matsuno said.
Choi Youngsam, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson declined to comment about the U.S. decision. He said that no request had been made by the ally for officials not to be sent to the ministry.
South Korea hopes the Beijing Olympics will “contribute to peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia and the world and help improve relations between South and North Korea,” Choi said.
It has been an American tradition to send high-ranking delegations to every Olympics. George W. Bush was present at the Beijing Olympic Summer Games 2008 opening. Jill Biden, first lady of the United States, led this year’s American contingent at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Doug Emhoff was the second man to lead a delegation to Paralympic Games.