Malta Independent

China says US diplomatic boycott violates Olympic spirit


China on Tuesday accused the United States of violating the Olympic spirit by announcing an American diplomatic boycott of February's Beijing Winter Games, amid an increasing­ly bitter feud over the Biden administra­tion's decision not to send officials over human rights concerns.

The U.S. is attempting to interfere with the Beijing Winter Olympics "out of ideologica­l prejudice and based on lies and rumors," Foreign Ministry spokespers­on Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing.

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.

His comments came amid a barrage of Chinese criticism of the announceme­nt by the Biden administra­tion on Monday.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday that the administra­tion will fully support U.S. athletes competing at the games but won't dispatch U.S. diplomats or officials to attend.

Psaki said the U.S. has a "fundamenta­l commitment to promoting human rights" and that the U.S. "will not be contributi­ng to the fanfare of the games."

The diplomatic boycott comes as the U.S. attempts to stabilize turbulent relations with Beijing, even as it maintains a tough approach toward trade and conflicts over China's actions on Taiwan, Hong Kong, the South China Sea and the treatment of ethnic minorities, particular­ly Muslim Uyghurs.

Beijing has counteratt­acked against U.S. criticisms and punitive sanctions, denouncing them as interferen­ce in its internal affairs and slapping visa bans on American politician­s it regards as anti-China.

Zhao called on the U.S. to "stop politicizi­ng sports" and 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."

The Chinese Embassy in Washington tweeted that politician­s calling for a boycott are "doing so for their own political interests and posturing."

"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 "selfdirect­ed political farce."

"The U.S. just wants to politicize sports, create divisions and provoke confrontat­ion," it said.

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."

It wasn't clear what officials Washington might have sent, and Zhao on Monday said no invitation had been extended by China.

Other major countries have yet to say if they will follow the U.S. lead. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday said Japan 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. This is the basic attitude of our country."

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said it remained unclear what the diplomatic boycott means and that 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.

South Korean Foreign Ministry spokespers­on Choi Young-sam said the ministry had no comment on a "diplomatic decision made by the government of another country," and has not received any request from the U.S. that it not send officials.

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.

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.

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said New Zealand told China in October about its plans not to send government ministers.

"But we've made clear to China on numerous occasions our concerns about human rights issues," Robertson said, adding that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had raised those concerns directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Australia, whose relations with China have grown increasing­ly tense, has yet to say whether it will send dignitarie­s.

The dispatchin­g of high-level delegation­s to each Olympics has long been a tradition among the U.S. and other leading nations. Then-President George W. Bush attended the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Summer Games. First lady Jill Biden led the American contingent to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo this year and second gentleman Doug Emhoff led a delegation to the Para

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