(CNSNews.com) – China’s foreign ministry on Wednesday shrugged off a suggestion that the United States could stay away from the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics unless Beijing improves its human rights record, pointing out that U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, among others, “oppose such wrong practices.”
When Secretary of State Antony Blinken was asked during an interview with Japan’s Nippon TV in Tokyo on Wednesday if there was “any possibility” the U.S. would boycott the games, the Biden administration’s top diplomat did not rule it out.
“We’ve heard the many concerns around the world about the prospect of those Olympics, given the actions that China has taken both at home in terms of its abuse of human rights when it comes to the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, other minorities, or, of course, what’s happening in Hong Kong, the increasing tensions as a result of its actions on – with regard to Taiwan,” Blinken said.
“And we’ve heard a lot of those concerns, and we will continue to talk to other countries around the world to hear what they’re thinking,” he continued. “And at the appropriate time we’ll decide what to do. But for now, we’re just listening to the concerns we’ve heard expressed from many countries around the world.”
In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian was invited to respond to Blinken’s comments. After invoking wording in the Olympic Charter about “political neutrality,” he said “to politicize sports is against the spirit of the charter and harms the interests of athletes of all countries.”
“The international community, including the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, all oppose such wrong practices,” Zhao added. “I can assure you that preparation for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games is making steady progress. We have every confidence in hosting a simple, safe and splendid Olympic event.”
As the Chinese official noted, the U.S. Olympic Committee does not support calls for nations to stay away from the Feb. 4-20, 2022 games over China’s human rights abuses.
“We oppose Games boycotts because they have been shown to negatively impact athletes while not effectively addressing global issues,” it said in an earlier statement. “We believe the more effective course of action is for the governments of the world and China to engage directly on human rights and political issues.”
Dismay over China’s mass-scale violations against minority Muslims in Xinjiang – practices the U.S. government determined amount to genocide and war crimes – and the erosion of democratic freedoms in Hong Kong has prompted growing calls for governments to stay away from the games, unless the IOC moves them from China. More than 180 human rights groups are campaigning for a boycott of what the World Uyghur Congress has dubbed the “genocide Olympics.”
In the U.S. House and Senate, Republican lawmakers have introduced measures urging the IOC to find an alternative host city.
The wording of Senate and House resolutions refers to the need for the event to be hosted by “a country that recognizes and respects human rights,” while the House measure also calls on the U.S. Olympic Committee to withdraw, and for the U.S. government to lead an international boycott, if the games are held in China.
In an op-ed this week, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) proposed a different response: Rather than boycott the event, he said the U.S. should allow its athletes to compete, but U.S. spectators and corporate sponsors should stay home, depriving the Chinese state of substantial revenue.
Romney suggested further that in place of the customary delegation of diplomats and administration officials, Biden should send a delegation of Chinese dissidents, religious leaders, and ethnic minority representatives to represent the U.S.
Administration officials up to now have generally punted when asked about the Winter Olympics, saying the event was a long way off.
“The Olympics are in 2022, and that’s – we’ll deal with that when that comes up, but right now that hasn’t been at the forefront of our conversations,” State Department deputy spokesperson Jalina Porter said at a briefing on Tuesday.
Last month, her colleague Ned Price also pointed to the fact the games were stiff a year away.
‘We are consulting closely with our allies and our partners at all levels to define our common concerns and to establish our shared approach to China. I wouldn’t want to get ahead of things,” he told reporters. “We are in early 2021. We will have plenty of time to talk about 2022 as – in the ensuing months.”