White House Announces Diplomatic Boycott of 2022 Beijing Winter Games

Sana Khan, Staff Writer

On December 6, 2021, the Biden administration announced a diplomatic boycott of February’s Beijing Winter Olympics over concerns of China’s “egregious human rights abuses and atrocities.” This boycott implies that no US officials will attend events like the opening or closing ceremonies, however American athletes would still be allowed to compete.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, stated that this was a response to “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, and other human rights abuses” occurring in China. 

Lawmakers and human rights activists have called for a full boycott of the Olympics in response to China’s human rights abuses, most notably the genocidal actions the Chinese government has taken against Uyghur Muslims within the northwest province of Xinjiang.

Government policies have included the arbitrary detention of Uyghurs in state-sponsored internment camps, forced labor, suppression of Uyghur religious practices, political indoctrination, severe ill-treatment, forced sterilization, forced contraception and forced abortion.

The decision by the Biden administration comes as China has been facing international pressure over the treatment of tennis player, Peng Shuai, who was censored on social media after coming forward with sexual assault allegations against a high-ranking Communist Party leader earlier this year.

China’s foreign ministry has warned of a “robust response” to any boycotts, including taking unspecified “countermeasures” against the United States over its diplomatic boycott. 

The Chinese government could suspend two-sided exchanges and participation in global talks, such as those on climate change, disrupt trade and sanction foreign officials. 

China could also leverage its consumer market of 1.4 billion people to retaliate against companies that withdraw support for the games. Earlier this year, brands including H&M and Nike faced boycotts by some of the Chinese public after the companies said they would stop using cotton from Xinjiang. “If Beijing perceives that it has lost face, it could react pretty strongly,” says CFR’s Yanzhong Huang.