The White House said on Monday US government officials would boycott the Winter Olympics because of China’s human rights “atrocities”, although US athletes were free to travel there to compete. The US boycott, encouraged for months by some members of Congress and rights groups, comes despite an effort to stabilise ties between the world’s two largest economies, with a video meeting last month between US President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping. Conservative MP Scott Benton questioned if the boycott sends a strong enough message.
Speaking on BBC Politics Live, Mr Benton said: “I think the actions of the US administration are a bit half-baked to be frank.
“If we’re serious about sending a strong signal to China, why don’t we boycott the games entirely as we did with Russia in the 1980s?
“That’s if we’re serious about addressing China’s appalling human rights record.
“My concern at the moment is all western nations don’t really know how to handle China.
“One moment we’re cosying up to them for international trade, the next moment we’re criticising their human rights records.
“Let’s have a bit of consistency across the west on how we approach China and the threat they possess to western security.”
China opposes the boycott and would take “resolute countermeasures”, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing in Beijing, host city of the 2008 Summer Olympics, on Tuesday.
“The United States will pay a price for its mistaken acts,” he said, without giving details. “Let’s all wait and see.”
It was not immediately clear if other nations would join the United States, although US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said allies were consulted on a “shared approach”.
Canada’s foreign ministry said it “remains deeply disturbed by the troubling reports of human rights violations in China” and continues to discuss the matter with partners and allies.
Australia, Britain, the Netherlands and Japan said they were also still considering their positions. New Zealand’s deputy prime minister, Grant Robertson, said the country would not send government officials but that decision was based largely on COVID-19 concerns and preceded the US.boycott.
Last week, Stefano Sannino, chief of the European Union’s diplomatic service, said boycotts were a matter for individual member states, not common EU foreign policy.
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The United States is set to host the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and is preparing a bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Asked if China would consider a diplomatic boycott of Olympic Games in the United States, Zhao said the US boycott had “damaged the foundation and atmosphere” of sports exchange and co-operation on the Games, which he likened to “lifting a stone to crush one’s own foot”.
He called on the United States to keep politics out of sports, saying the boycott went against Olympic principles.
Chinese media and scholars criticised the US decision.
“It is foolish and silly of the United States to do this,” Wang Wen, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing, told Reuters, adding that other major powers could do the same to the United States in 2028.