'Stop Using the Olympic Games': China Blasts Tony Blinken's Talk of Winter Boycott

The Chinese government has accused the United States of "politicizing" the Olympics after President Joe Biden's top diplomat spoke of a collective response to the question of whether to boycott next year's Winter Games.

The successful hosting of the competition in Beijing next February will help crown the Chinese Communist Party's centennial year, but China finds itself at odds with a number of Western governments and human rights groups over its policies in Xinjiang.

The Biden administration has declared Beijing's genocidal actions against mostly Uyghur Muslim minorities in its far western region as ongoing, leading to growing calls from U.S. lawmakers either to boycott or move the 2022 Olympic Games in a form of protest and punishment.

"China firmly opposes any U.S. initiatives to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics under the pretext of so-called human rights issues," China's foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a regular press briefing on Tuesday.

Zhao's remarks followed congressional testimony given by Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday, when he said the U.S. was "consulting very closely with allies and partners to look at the common concerns that we have."

Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Washington was seeking a "common approach," which he believes will be "much more effective than doing something on our own."

The Chinese government has repeatedly denied accusations of human rights violations in Xinjiang, despite numerous witness statements and United Nations experts alleging mass detention and forced labor, among other crimes against humanity.

"Politicizing sports goes against the spirit of the Olympic Charter and harms the interests of athletes of all countries," said Zhao, who added the U.S. should "stop using the Olympic Games to engage in political manipulation."

Among those on Capitol Hill calling for a strong response is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who suggested a "diplomatic boycott" of the Winter Olympics while attending a congressional hearing on May 18.

"Let's have a diplomatic boycott if in fact this Olympics takes place," she said. "Let's not honor the Chinese government by having heads of state go to China to show their support for their athletes. When they come home, let's show them even more [...] respect, adulation."

She added: "For heads of state to go to China in light of a genocide that is ongoing while you're sitting there in your seats really begs the question: what moral authority do you have to speak about human rights anyplace in the world if you're willing to pay your respects to the Chinese government as it commits genocide?"

Beijing responded, also through Zhao, the following day, calling the comments a "typical American farce," full of "lies and disinformation."

"Certain U.S. politicians should stop using the Olympics to play despicable political tricks. Do not stand in opposition to every country's athletes and those who love the Olympic Games," he said.

The 2022 Olympics will make Beijing the first city to host both the summer and winter versions of the event. U.S. lawmakers seeking alternatives to a boycott have also suggested moving the Games to another country.

China claims athletes and Olympic committees worldwide are not in favor of a boycott, and that government action would oppose this consensus.

In a letter to Congress on May 13, Sarah Hirshland, who heads the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, argued against a boycott of the Games.

Hirshland said there were "valid concerns" about China's "oppression of the Uyghur population," but said an athlete boycott "is not the solution to geopolitical issues."

Secretary Blinken Testifies to Senate Committee
Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies during a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the Hart Senate Office Building on June 8, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Alex Wong/Getty Images