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Biden announces diplomatic boycott of Winter Olympics in Beijing

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Biden announces diplomatic boycott of Winter Olympics in Beijing
The emblems for the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing are seen on December 1 at the Shougang Industrial Park in Beijing. Photo by Roman Pilipey/EPA-EFE

Dec. 6 (UPI) -- The White House on Monday announced a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in China in a show of protest over a number of issues, most notably human rights.

While allowing athletes to participate in the February games, the move means President Joe Biden and other American officials will not attend, which is standard practice.

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The decision is in part a signal of opposition to China's treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority in western Xinjiang province, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a briefing.

The Biden administration in March declared Beijing's treatment of the Uighurs to be a genocide.

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"The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic games given the PRC's ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses," Psaki told reporters.

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"The athletes on Team USA have our full support. We will be behind them 100 percent as we cheer them on from home. We will not be contributing to the fanfare of the games."

Beijing is scheduled to host the 2022 Winter Olympics on Feb. 4-20. It will be the first city to host both the Winter and Summer Games (2008).

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Biden said last month that he was considering some type of boycott for the games. Human rights advocates have been calling for the boycott due to China's historically questionable record on the subject.

it is the first U.S. boycott of any kind for the Olympic Games since President Jimmy Carter ordered a full boycott for the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow over Russia's military invasion of Afghanistan. No American athletes participated in those Games, and Russia returned the favor with a similar boycott of the Los Angeles Summer Olympics four years later.

British runner Sebastian Coe clinches the gold medal in the men's 1500m race at the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow, the last time U.S. athletes were blocked from participating in the Olympics. File Photo by Joe Marquette/UPI
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Biden's boycott also signals a new thorn in U.S.-China relations, which have grown steadily worse over the past few years.

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Before Monday's announcement, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian largely dismissed the idea of a boycott.

"No one would mind individual politicians' attending the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games," Zhao said, according to the state-run Global Times. "Protagonists of the Beijing Winter Olympics are athletes from various countries, not individual politicians.

"Those politicians who brag about the so-called boycott are simply doing it for their own political gains and attention. Whether they come or not is in the interest of no one and will have no influence on Beijing holding a successful Olympics."

The United States has criticized China on various issues, from violently cracking down on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, to its policies toward Tibet and Taiwan and for detaining and abusing Uighurs.

Last week, the Women's Tennis Association announced that it will not stage any tournaments in China in response to Beijing's handling of sex assault accusations from tennis star Peng Shuai. Peng said a month ago on social media that she was assaulted by former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli.

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Beijing also responded with anger that the United States has invited Taiwan to the Summit for Democracy this month. China has long claimed sovereign control over the island and has opposed any effort by Taiwan to act as an independent nation.

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