Friday, January 27, 2023

China vows retaliation for US Olympic diplomatic boycott

China vows retaliation for US Olympic diplomatic boycott

BEIJING (Reuters) – The United States has betrayed Olympic principles and will have to 'pay a price' for its diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games in Beijing, China said on Tuesday, as key Western allies hesitated in deciding whether to follow the US lead.

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.

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.

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.

'KEEP POLITICS OUT OF SPORT'

Asked if China would consider a diplomatic boycott of Olympic Games in the United States, Zhao said the U.S 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.

"For the US politicians, who had not been invited (to the Games) to say they are staging a diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics, that's just 'proffering unreciprocated love'," state news agency Xinhua said in a commentary.