China threatens countermeasures if US boycotts Beijing Olympics

Australia and Canada are also reportedly considering diplomatic boycotts of the Beijing Winter Olympics. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING/WASHINGTON (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - US politicians should stop calling for a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics to avoid hurting bilateral ties and China will take "countermeasures" if necessary, China's foreign ministry said on Monday (Dec 6).

The Biden administration is expected to announce this week that US government officials will not attend the 2022 Olympics in Beijing, CNN reported on Sunday.

Those calling for a boycott are "grandstanding" and should stop "so as not to affect the dialogue and cooperation between China and the United States in important areas," said Zhao Lijian, China's foreign ministry spokesman.

"If the US insists in wilfully clinging to its course, China will take resolute countermeasures," he said at a news conference.

US President Joe Biden said last month that he was considering such a diplomatic boycott to protest China's human rights record, including what Washington says is genocide against minority Muslims.

The administration has been under pressure from activists and members of Congress to skip the games. The White House declined to comment on CNN's report on Sunday.

Four sources with knowledge of the administration's thinking previously told Reuters that there was a growing consensus within the White House to keep US officials away from the Beijing Olympics.

CNN said the US boycott would not prevent its athletes from competing in the games. The State Department did not respond to questions about the report late Sunday

The White House declined to comment.

Any such move by Washington would be largely symbolic because few US officials are likely to visit China due to its strict quarantine rules and clashes over allegations of human rights violations.

The state-run Global Times reported last week that Beijing had no plan to invite any American politicians, saying: "Without them messing things up, the Beijing Winter Olympics will be even more splendid."

Washington has also accused Beijing of curtailing political freedoms in Hong Kong and ramping up military pressure on Taiwan, which receives strong US support.

Australia and Canada are also reportedly considering diplomatic boycotts of the spectacle.

China denies charges made by the US and lawmakers in other Western nations that it is committing genocide in the far western Xinjiang region, which has a large Muslim Uighur population.

Beijing has also lashed out at the US over a potential diplomatic boycott, saying sporting events should not be politicised.

Adding to the frictions between Beijing and Washington, Mr Biden will host a virtual democracy summit on Thursday and Friday, with Taiwan among the more than 100 invitees that include Britain and Japan.

The event aims to bring together democratic governments to discuss their efforts to fight corruption and authoritarianism and advance human rights.

A Chinese official said over the weekend the event will be a "joke" and the American political system does not represent a real democracy.

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