In the midst of an increasingly heated disagreement over the Biden administration’s decision not to send officials due to human rights concerns, China accused the United States of breaking the Olympic spirit by declaring an American diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Games in February.
At a daily briefing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhao Lijian said the US is seeking to meddle with the Beijing Winter Olympics “out of ideological prejudice and based on falsehoods and rumors.”
The boycott “clearly breaches the Olympic Charter’s concept of political neutrality of sports and goes opposite to the Olympic motto’more unified,'” Zhao added.
Zhao promised China will retaliate with “resolute countermeasures,” as he had the day before, but gave no details.
“The United States will pay a price for its actions.” Keep an eye out for follow-ups,” Zhao advised.
His remarks come in the wake of a storm of Chinese criticism of the Biden administration’s Monday statement.
On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the government will fully support American athletes competing in the Olympics, but that no US ambassadors or officials will be sent.
According to Psaki, the United States has a “fundamental commitment to advancing human rights” and “will not be adding to the games’ hype.”
The diplomatic embargo comes as the US tries to mend tense relations with China while maintaining a firm stance on trade and tensions over China’s conduct in Taiwan, Hong Kong, the South China Sea, and the treatment of ethnic minorities, notably Muslim Uyghurs.
Beijing has retaliated against US criticism and punitive measures, calling them an intrusion into its domestic affairs and imposing visa bans on American lawmakers it considers to be anti-China.
Zhao urged the United States to “stop politicizing sports” and to refrain from actions that he claimed were undermining the Beijing Winter Olympics, warning that “otherwise, it will undermine the dialogue and cooperation between the two countries in a number of important areas and international issues.”
Politicians pushing for a boycott, according to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, are “doing it for their own political goals and posturing.”
“In truth, it makes no difference whether these individuals attend or not, and it has no bearing on the success of the #Beijing2022,” the embassy added.
The boycott, according to China’s UN envoy, is a “self-directed political farce.”
“The United States just wants to politicize sports, sow tensions, and incite conflict,” it stated.
Even the Communist Party’s famously opaque Central Commission for Discipline Inspection responded with a long rant on its website headlined “The Olympic Charter Cannot be Tarnished.”
According to the essay, “some Western anti-China politicians” have demonstrated a “defensive Cold War attitude aimed at politicizing sport,” which is a “clear breach of the Olympic spirit” and a “challenge to all individuals who respect the Olympic movement.”
It was unclear who Washington may have sent, and Zhao confirmed on Monday that China had not offered an invitation.
Other big countries have yet to decide whether or not to follow the United States’ lead. On Tuesday, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stated that Japan will make its own choice “based on national interests, taking into account the importance of the Olympic Games and Japan’s diplomacy.” This is our country’s core mindset.”
Hirokazu Matsuno, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, said the diplomatic boycott’s meaning was unknown and that a decision on personnel going will be made “at an opportune moment.”
“In any event,” Matsuno stated, “Japan hopes that the Beijing Winter Games would be staged as a celebration of peace in accordance with the Olympic and Paralympic Games values.”
Choi Young-sam, a spokeswoman for the South Korean Foreign Ministry, said the ministry had no comment on a “diplomatic decision taken by the government of another nation” and that the US had not requested that diplomats not be sent.
Choi expressed South Korea’s hope that the Beijing Olympics will “contribute to peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia and across the world, as well as assist strengthen ties between the two Koreas.”
New Zealand said on Tuesday that it will not be attending the games on a diplomatic level, but that it had already taken the decision because to pandemic travel restrictions.
New Zealand informed China in October that it would not be sending government ministers, according to Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson.
“However, we’ve expressed our concerns about human rights issues to China on multiple occasions,” Robertson said, adding that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has discussed such concerns directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Australia has yet to declare if it would send dignitaries since its ties with China have become more strained.
The United States and other prominent nations have a long tradition of sending high-level delegations to each Olympic Games. The inauguration of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Summer Games was attended by then-President George W. Bush. Jill Biden, the first lady, led the American delegation to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo this year, while Doug Emhoff, the second gentleman, led a mission to the Paralympic Games.