China slams U.S. diplomatic boycott of Winter Games as ‘violation of the Olympic spirit’

Woman snapping photos in front of logos for Beijing Winter Olympics
A woman takes photos near the logos for the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing.
(Ng Han Guan / Associated Press)

China on Tuesday accused the U.S. of violating the Olympic spirit after the Biden administration announced a diplomatic boycott of February’s Winter Games in Beijing over human rights concerns.

Rights groups have pushed for a full-blown boycott of the Games, accusing China of abuses against ethnic minorities. The U.S. decision falls short of those calls but comes at an exceptionally turbulent time for relations between the powerhouse nations and was met with a barrage of criticism from China.

The Biden administration’s decision not to send officials was made “out of ideological prejudice and based on lies and rumors,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters. The boycott “seriously violates the principle of political neutrality of sports established by the Olympic Charter and runs counter to the Olympic motto ‘More united.’”


As he did the previous day, Zhao vowed that China would respond with “resolute countermeasures” but offered no details.

“The U.S. will pay a price for its practices. You may stay tuned for follow-ups,” Zhao said.

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the Biden administration would fully support U.S. athletes competing at the Games but would not dispatch diplomats or other officials to attend.

The head of the Women’s Tennis Assn. says all tour events in China would be suspended because of concerns about the safety of Peng Shuai.

Dec. 1, 2021

Psaki said that the U.S. has a “fundamental commitment to promoting human rights” and that the U.S. “will not be contributing to the fanfare of the Games.”

The diplomatic boycott comes as the U.S. attempts to thread the needle between stabilizing difficult relations with Beijing and maintaining a tough stance on trade and political conflicts. The U.S. has accused China of human rights abuses against Muslim Uyghurs in the northwest region of Xinjiang, suppressing democratic movements in Hong Kong and committing military aggression against the self-ruled island of Taiwan and more.

Other major countries have yet to say if they will follow the American lead.

Beijing has denounced U.S. criticisms and punitive sanctions as interference in its internal affairs and slapped visa bans on American politicians whom it regards as anti-China.


As the two leaders began their videoconference on Monday, there were only a few flickers of warmth from their years of visiting each other’s homelands.

Nov. 15, 2021

Zhao warned the U.S. to “stop politicizing sports” and to cease what he said were actions undermining the Winter Olympics. “Otherwise, it will undermine the dialogue and cooperation between the two countries in a series of important areas and international issues,” he said.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington tweeted that politicians calling for a boycott were “doing so for their own political interests and posturing.”

“In fact, no one would care about whether these people come or not, and it has no impact whatsoever on the #Beijing2022 to be successfully held,” the embassy said.

China’s mission to the United Nations called the boycott a “self-directed political farce.”

Even the ruling Communist Party’s notoriously opaque Central Commission for Discipline Inspection issued a response in the form of a lengthy screed on its website titled “The Spirit of the Olympic Charter Cannot be Tarnished.”

“Some Western anti-China politicians” have shown a “defensive Cold War mentality aimed at politicizing sport,” the article said, calling that a “clear violation of the Olympic spirit and a challenge to all people who love the Olympic movement.”

People on the streets of Beijing were dismissive of the U.S. move.

“I don’t think it matters at all if they would come or not. The Olympic Games are not about one country or a couple of countries,” said coffee shop employee Deng Tao.

Both sides would incur massive losses if their rivalry intensifies, untempered by any sense of shared interests, and leads to war.

Nov. 22, 2021

“Such remarks from someone we never invited are simply a farce. And I don’t think it will have much impact on the holding of the Winter Olympics,” said Lu Xiaolei, who works in trade.

It wasn’t clear whom Washington might have sent in an official delegation to the Games, and Zhao on Monday said no invitations had been extended by China.

Amid the calls for a boycott, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Tuesday said Japan would make its own decision “from the perspective of national interests, taking into consideration the significance of the Olympic Games and the significance of Japan’s diplomacy.”


Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics in July.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said it remained unclear what the U.S. diplomatic boycott means and that a decision on Japanese officials attending would be made “at an appropriate time.”

“In any case, Japan hopes that the Beijing Winter Games will be held as a celebration of peace in line with the principles of the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Matsuno said.

South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson Choi Young-sam declined to comment on the U.S. decision and said the ministry had not received any request from its ally not to send officials.

South Korea hopes the Beijing Olympics will “contribute to peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia and the world and help improve relations between South and North Korea,” Choi said.

Three protesters broke into the site of the flame-lighting ceremony for the Beijing Winter Olympics holding a banner that read: “No genocide games.”

Oct. 18, 2021

New Zealand said Tuesday that it would not be attending the Games at a diplomatic level, but that it had made the decision earlier mostly because of pandemic travel restrictions.

The country told China in October about its plans not to send government ministers, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said. “But we’ve made clear to China on numerous occasions our concerns about human rights issues,” Robertson said.


Australia, whose relations with China have grown increasingly tense, has yet to say whether it will send dignitaries.

The dispatching of high-level delegations to each Olympics has been a tradition among the U.S. and other leading nations. Then-President George W. Bush attended the opening of the 2008 Beijing Summer Games. First Lady Jill Biden led the American contingent to the Tokyo Olympics, and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff led a delegation to the Paralympic Games.