The idea of a “diplomatic boycott” by the United States of the winter Olympic Games in Beijing in February — to protest human rights violations by China — is gaining traction among some lawmakers in Washington.
According to a report by The Washington Post Tuesday, citing sources close to the situation, the White House will soon announce that neither President Joe Biden nor any other US government official will attend the Games.
Such a diplomatic boycott would let the United States make a statement about repression of the Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang, which Washington has called genocide, while still allowing American athletes to compete.
The newspaper said that Biden is likely to approve such a move, which has been the official recommendation of his advisors, later this month.
Asked Tuesday about a potential boycott, a spokesman for the White House only said that the subject did not come up during Biden’s conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping at their virtual summit Monday evening Washington time.
He did not specify whether a boycott is in the works.
Despite the lack of an official plan, several lawmakers have already publicly praised the idea.
“I’ve long advocated for a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Games and I’m hopeful that the Administration will send a strong message to the CCP, without punishing US athletes,” Republican Senator Mitt Romney said on Twitter, referring to the Chinese Communist Party, after the publication of the Post article.
Jim Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that a diplomatic boycott would be the “correct call” for the United States in Beijing.
And Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi has since May called for a diplomatic boycott of the Olympic Games, a move which at the time drew furious reactions from Chinese officials.
But many among a certain section of the Republican party would like Biden to go even further with a total boycott of the event, in which not only diplomats and government officials refuse to attend but American athletes also stay home.