China Warns U.S., Allies Will 'Pay a Price' for Diplomatic Boycott of Winter Olympics 2022

Countries that shun Beijing 2022 will "pay a price" for manipulating the Olympic Games, China warned on Thursday, as a group of Western democracies joined a diplomatic boycott in protest at Beijing's repressive human rights policies.

The White House's decision to announce its government-level boycott on Monday has led to a snowball effect of similar actions by Australia, the United Kingdom and, most recently, Canada. The four nations are understood to have been in close contact to coordinate the collective response.

"The U.S., Australia, U.K. and Canada's use of the Olympics for political manipulation is unpopular and self-isolating," said the spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry, Wang Wenbin.

"They will inevitably pay a price for their wrongdoing," he added.

Wang continued: "China never invited the relevant countries in the first place. The Beijing Winter Olympics will be a success regardless of whether their officials come or not."

The four capitals singled out by China are among seven governments that have confirmed they won't be sending official representatives to the games, which open on February 4.

Lithuania and the devolved administration in Scotland have said they are boycotting Beijing 2022 in response to continuing reports of human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. Meanwhile, New Zealand has cited logistical constraints related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those countries' athletes will still compete in the Chinese capital. The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee voiced its opposition to a full sporting boycott earlier this year, arguing that such actions were ineffective.

Beijing's strained relations with Washington, Canberra, London and Ottawa have contributed to the reactions from China, which have ranged from anger to indifference.

After the White House announcement, China vowed to take unspecified "countermeasures." State media pundits suggested a boycott of the Los Angeles Summer Olympics in 2028.

When Australia's prime minister, Scott Morrison, announced his country's decision on Wednesday, China responded by saying "no one cares" whether his ministers attend the games.

Boris Johnson, the U.K prime minister, said on the same day that there would be "effectively a diplomatic boycott" of the Winter Olympics. No ministers or officials are expected to attend, he told the House of Commons.

In response to calls for stronger action, including a full boycott, Johnson said: "I do not think that sporting boycotts are sensible, and that remains the policy of the government."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, who also announced his decision on December 8, said he was concerned by "repeated human rights violations carried out by the Chinese government.

"I don't think the decision by Canada or by many other countries to choose to not send diplomatic representation to the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics is going to come as a surprise to China," Trudeau added. "We have been very clear over the past many years of our deep concerns around human rights violations."

A number of major governments have yet to announce their decision, but Italy, South Korea and, on Thursday, France have said they will not consider a diplomatic boycott.

During the Chinese Foreign Ministry press conference in Beijing, Wang said a number of foreign heads of state and members of royal families had registered to attend the games.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia is reported to have been invited personally by Chinese leader Xi Jinping, but Wang told reporters that invitations to foreign dignitaries were extended by each country's National Olympic Committee.

"Sport has nothing to do with politics," Wang said, adding that the games were "not a stage for political grandstanding."

Update 12/09/21, 7:25 a.m. ET: This article was updated to add extra information.

China Vows Retaliation Against Olympics Games Boycotts
China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin speaks at a press briefing in Beijing on November 9, 2020. GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images