BEIJING: The United States will have to “pay a price” for its diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, China said on Tuesday, just weeks after talks aimed at easing tense relations between the two nations.
On Monday, the White House said US government officials would boycott the Winter Olympics because of China’s human rights “atrocities”, although US athletes are free to travel there to compete.
The US boycott, encouraged for months by some members of Congress and rights advocacy groups, comes despite an effort to stabilise ties, with a video meeting last month between US President Joe Biden and China’s leader Xi Jinping.
China opposes the boycott and would take “resolute countermeasures”, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular media briefing in Beijing on Tuesday.
“The United States will pay a price for its mistaken acts,” he said, without giving details. “Let’s all wait and see.”
The United States is set to host the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and is preparing a bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Asked if China would consider a diplomatic boycott of Olympic Games in the United States, Zhao said the US boycott had “damaged the foundation and atmosphere” of sports exchange and co-operation on the Games, which he likened to “lifting a stone to crush one’s own foot”.
He called on the United States to keep politics out of sports, saying the boycott went against Olympic principles.
Chinese media and scholars criticised the US boycott.
“It is foolish and silly of the United States to do this,” Wang Wen, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing, told Reuters, adding that other major powers could do the same to Washington when it was the US turn to host the Games.
“For the US politicians who had not been invited to say they are staging a diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics, that’s just ‘proferring unreciprocated love’,” state news agency Xinhua said in a commentary.
Biden’s administration highlighted as the reason for its boycott what Washington calls genocide against minority Muslims in China’s far western region of Xinjiang.
China denies all rights abuses.
It was unclear if other nations would join the United States, although US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said allies were consulted on a “shared approach”.
Canada’s foreign ministry said it “remains deeply disturbed by the troubling reports of human rights violations in China” and continues to discuss the matter with partners and allies.
The Australian and Japanese governments have said they are also still considering their positions.
New Zealand’s deputy prime minister, Grant Robertson, said the country would not send government officials but that decision was based largely on Covid-19 concerns and preceded the US boycott.
Last week, Stefano Sannino, chief of the European Union’s diplomatic service, said boycotts were a matter for individual member states, not common EU foreign policy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is the only leader of a major country who has accepted an invitation.
Human rights groups welcomed the move, but said Washington could do more to hold China accountable.
However, some political analysts said the boycott was less a threat to the Games and more of an issue of appearances that Beijing fuelled by threatening retaliation.
“It would have been a non-story if let alone,” said Lisa Delpy Neirotti, a professor of sport management at the George Washington University School of Business.
“We typically do not send a large government delegation anyway, especially in Covid times.” – Reuters