Sports | November 18, 2021 11:37 am

Report: US Planning Diplomatic Boycott of 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

If the boycott is approved, American athletes can still compete in the Winter Olympics, which are scheduled to begin on February 4

Joe Biden gestures as he meets with China's President Xi Jinping during a virtual summit
Joe Biden gestures as he meets with China's President Xi Jinping during a virtual summit.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty

In protest against China’s human rights practices, the United States is strongly considering not sending a diplomatic delegation to the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February next year, according to Reuters and The Washington Post.

“Governments typically send a high-ranking delegation of diplomats to opening ceremonies in a show of international support for the thousands of athletes from around the world who participate,” per the former.

Even if the Biden administration, which accuses China of carrying out a genocide against Muslim ethnic groups in its western Xinjiang region (which Beijing denies), decides not to send a delegation of officials, American athletes would be allowed to participate in the Games.

“This diplomatic boycott is intended, sources say, as a way to respond to the Chinese government’s human rights abuses without impacting U.S. athletes,” per The Washington Post. “Although the administration technically has not finalized this decision, a formal recommendation has been made to the president and he is expected to approve it before the end of the month.”

During a recent meeting between President Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, the Olympics were not discussed. But President Biden “raised concerns about the [People’s Republic of China’s] practices in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, as well as human rights more broadly,” according to a White House release about the meeting between the two world leaders.

News of the potential boycott comes amid growing sentiment that Chinese authorities are not being honest about the status of tennis player Peng Shuai, who recently claimed she was sexually assaulted by former China vice premier Zhang Gaoli.

Following Shuai’s accusations — and subsequent disappearance from public life — the Women’s Tennis Association was given assurances she was safe and sound in Beijing. Then, the Chinese state media published an email Shuai supposedly wrote to WTA executive director Steve Simon stating that the assault accusations were not true and asking the association to stop meddling in her affairs. “I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her,” Simon said afterward.

Natasha Kassam, the director of public opinion and foreign policy at the Lowy Institute, told The New York Times the handling of Shuai’s accusations has “cast even more shadow” on how the International Olympic Committee has responded to allegations lodged against China.

“There’s little doubt that the fake statement will only strengthen calls to boycott the Olympics,” she said. “The brazen efforts to silence Peng Shuai seem at odds with China’s focus on making the Beijing Olympics a success.”

The 2022 Winter Olympics are scheduled to run from February 4-20.