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US says looking to coordinate participation in Beijing Olympics with allies

US says looking to coordinate participation in Beijing Olympics with allies
April 7, 2021

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Tuesday said that it is looking to discuss with partners and allies how to proceed with participation in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in a coordinated way, amid growing calls for a boycott of the Games over China’s human rights record.

In a briefing, State Department spokesman Ned Price repeated Washington’s concerns over Beijing’s human rights violations, particularly its persecution of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region, which the United States deems a genocide.

Asked if the United States was discussing with allies whether or not to consider a potential joint boycott, Price said, “It is something that we certainly wish to discuss ... it is certainly something that we understand that a coordinated approach will be not only in our interests, but also in the interests of our allies and partners.”

Later, Price clarified in an email that he was referring to the United States having a coordinated approach rather than saying the United States was specifically discussing a joint boycott. In a tweet afterwards, he wrote that there was nothing new to announce.

“As I said, we don’t have any announcement regarding the Beijing Olympics. 2022 remains a ways off, but we will continue to consult closely with allies and partners to define our common concerns and establish our shared approach to the PRC,” or People’s Republic of China, he tweeted.

In late February, the White House said it had not made a final decision on whether the United States would take part in the 2022 Winter Olympics in China and would look for guidance from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which had no comment.

The Biden administration signaled earlier this year that it had no plans to bar American athletes from participating in the Beijing Games, a move discouraged by the U.S. Olympic and Paralypmic Committee. But Washington and allies could still push for a diplomatic boycott in which officials do not attend the Games.

The last U.S. Olympic boycott came in 1980 when President Jimmy Carter refused to send American athletes to the Moscow Olympics amid Cold War tensions surrounding the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

An independent U.N. panel said in 2018 that it had received credible reports that at least 1 million Uighurs and other Muslims had been held in the region, which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan. Beijing describes them as “vocational training centers” to stamp out extremism, and denies accusations of abuse.