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Why did the USA start a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics?

The United States' diplomatic boycott of next year's Winter Olympics in China has good reasons.

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The US government will not send any official delegation, but the athletes are free to travel to Beijing and compete. Photo: Pixabay

LatinAmerican Post| Juan Manuel Londoño

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Leer en español: ¿Por qué USA comenzó un boicot diplomático contra los Olímpicos de Beijing?

The United States announced a few days ago that it will carry out a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in China. For what reason? Here we tell you.

Concerns about human rights violations

The boycott promoted by the United States in China is a bit peculiar. The US government will not send any official delegation, but the athletes are free to travel to Beijing and compete.

The government cited the genocide of Muslim minorities in the western region of Xinjiang as the main reason for this move. Various human rights groups (such as Human Right Watch) have accused the Chinese government of detaining more than one million Uighur Muslims in massive "re-education camps" where they would be forced to work forcibly. There is also evidence that mass sterilizations occur in these fields.

"The diplomatic or official representation of the United States would treat these games as if they were business as usual in the face of the huge human rights abuses and atrocities of the People's Republic of China in Xinjiang, and we simply cannot do that," said the press secretary of the white house Jen Psaki.

Insusually, the decision to boycott the games has been backed by politicians on both sides of the American spectrum. Republican Senator Mitt Romney supported the decision made by the Biden administration. "The Administration is right to reject a diplomatic presence at the Beijing Olympics: the United States will not turn a blind eye to China's predation, persecution and genocide." tweeted the Senator.

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How has the Chinese government responded?
China has promised serious retaliation to this act by the United States. The deputy director of the Information Department of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zhao Lijiang, promised that "The United States will pay for its wrongdoings." He also claimed that this boycott is a "clear violation of the spirit of neutrality of the Olympic Games."

However, it is not the first time that both nations have boycotted an Olympic Games. China has already boycotted the Games in 1956 and 1964. In the middle of the cold war, in 1980, the United States, under the administration of Jimmy Carter, also boycotted the Moscow games.

What could happen?

So far, not many US allies have joined this diplomatic boycott. Only Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom have joined this cause. The truth is, unless athletes refuse to participate in the games, this boycott is unlikely to have a real impact. After all, for the common person it is irrelevant whether or not a diplomat goes to a Games. The impact of a single athlete can mean much more than that of an entire country. You just have to see how the case of the tennis player Peng Shuai went around the world to understand this.