The United States won’t send its officials to the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, the White House said Monday. The Biden administration’s diplomatic boycott, announced by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, comes as a reaction to China’s “egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang” against the minority Muslim Uighur population. While Team USA will still compete, “we will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games,” Psaki said. She added that U.S. athletes “have our full support” and that “we will be behind them 100 percent as we cheer them on from home.”
Criticism from Beijing was not far behind the press secretary’s announcement. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused Washington of grandstanding on Monday. “This severely tarnishes the spirit of the Olympic Charter,” he said, calling the move “naked political provocation.” In addition to protesting abuses propagated against the Uighur community, humanitarian organizations and members of Congress have expressed concern over China’s anti-democratic suppression of Hong Kong, treatment of “missing” tennis player Peng Shuai, and hostility towards Taiwan. In response, President Joe Biden first raised the prospect of a diplomatic boycott last month. “We feel this sends a clear message,” Psaki said on Monday.