US yet to decide on whether to take part in Olympics in China

Security guards near what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre in Huocheng county in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, in 2018. Human rights groups want the Olympics taken out of China because of its treatment of Uighur
Security guards near what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre in Huocheng county in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, in 2018. Human rights groups want the Olympics taken out of China because of its treatment of Uighur Muslims and other human rights concerns. China denies human rights abuses.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON �� The White House has not made a final decision on whether the United States will take part in the 2022 Winter Olympics in China, said President Joe Biden's spokesman, even as some Republicans call for a boycott.

Republicans who have called either for a boycott or for the Olympics to be moved out of Beijing have cited a US designation made under former president Donald Trump that the Chinese government was perpetrating genocide against Uighur Muslims in its Xinjiang region.

Speaking to reporters about US participation in the Beijing Olympics, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday: "There hasn't been a final decision made on that and, of course, we would look for guidance from the US Olympic Committee."

Ms Psaki had previously signalled on Feb 3 that the US had no plans to boycott the Beijing Olympics, saying: "We're not currently talking about changing our posture or our plans as it relates to the Beijing Olympics."

The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee said it had no comment on Ms Psaki's latest remarks, instead referring to a statement it issued on Feb 3 opposing boycotts which said: "We believe the more effective course of action is for the governments of the world and China to engage directly on human rights and geopolitical issues."

Human rights groups have urged the International Olympic Committee to take the Olympics out of China because of its treatment of Uighur Muslims along with other human rights concerns.

China denies human rights abuses.

The last US Olympic boycott came in 1980 when President Jimmy Carter refused to send American athletes to the Moscow Olympics amid Cold War tensions surrounding the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Former US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley became the latest politician in her party to call for a boycott.

Seen as a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, Ms Haley wrote on Twitter: "The United States should not glorify a country that is committing genocide against its own people and threatening the world."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2021, with the headline 'US yet to decide on whether to take part in Olympics in China'. Subscribe