China Says U.S. Diplomatic Boycott Violates Olympic Spirit

BEIJING (AP) -
Men work on a traffic sign on a highway leading to venues of the Beijing 2022 Olympics in Zhangjiakou, Hebei Province, China. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)

China on Tuesday accused the United States of violating the Olympic spirit by announcing an American diplomatic boycott of February’s Beijing Winter Games, amid an increasingly bitter feud over the Biden administration’s decision not to send officials over human rights concerns.

The U.S. is attempting to interfere with the Beijing Winter Olympics “out of ideological prejudice and based on lies and rumors,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing.

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,'” Zhao said.

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.

His comments came amid a barrage of Chinese criticism of the announcement by the Biden administration on Monday.

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

“The U.S. just wants to politicize sports, create divisions and provoke confrontation,” it said.

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 entitled “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.”

It wasn’t clear what officials Washington might have sent, and Zhao on Monday said no invitation had been extended by China.

Other major countries have yet to say if they will follow the U.S. lead. 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. This is the basic attitude of our country.”

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said it remained unclear what the diplomatic boycott means and that a decision on 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.

The dispatching of high-level delegations to each Olympics has long been a tradition among the U.S. and other leading nations. Then-President George W. Bush attended the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Summer Games. First lady Jill Biden led the American contingent to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo this year and second gentleman Doug Emhoff led a delegation to the Paralympic Games.