China says US 'politicising' Winter Olympics as boycott talk mounts

·2-min read
A skier at the National Alpine Ski Center, a venue for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics

China on Tuesday accused the US of "politicising sports", after Washington's top diplomat said he was seeking consensus among allies before any possible call to boycott next year's Beijing Winter Olympics.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a congressional hearing in Washington that the US was "consulting very closely with allies and partners to look at the common concerns that we have, and ideally to establish a common approach" on the Games, scheduled for February.

There will be "more on that in the weeks to come", Blinken warned, as the Olympic showpiece becomes a flashpoint between the West and China, which is accused of widespread rights violations.

His comments were met with anger in Beijing, which denies any rights abuses, whether in Hong Kong or the Uyghur-Muslim homeland of Xinjiang.

"Politicising sports is against the spirit of the Olympic Charter, and harms the interests of athletes... as well as the international Olympic cause," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters Tuesday.

"Relevant parties should immediately stop their use of the Olympic Games to engage in political manipulation."

President Joe Biden's administration has declined for months to present its position on a possible boycott of the Games, a showpiece which China hopes will crown the centenary year of its Communist Party, as well as underscoring its rebound from the coronavirus.

Blinken said a united front with allied nations would be "much more effective than doing something on our own".

Republicans have called for an outright boycott of the Beijing Games over alleged human rights violations by the Chinese government, in particular its repression of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region -- treatment that has been described by Washington as a "genocide" despite Beijing's protests.

Members of Biden's Democratic Party have also started to speak out against China's actions.

Last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for a "diplomatic boycott" of the Winter Olympics.

"Let's not honor the Chinese government by having heads of state go to China," she said.

Another bipartisan measure introduced Monday called for the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Winter Games "unless the Chinese government ends its ongoing crimes against the Uyghur people".

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