US announces diplomatic boycott of 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

ITV News US Correspondent Emma Murphy on the announcement from Washington that it will stage a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in China in February

The United States has announced a diplomatic boycott of next year's Winter Olympics in Beijing in protest at Chinese human rights abuses, a move China described as an “outright political provocation”.

China has vowed to greet any boycott with “firm countermeasures.”

At a press briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, said: "The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games given the PRC's ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses".

"US diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the PRC's egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply can't do that," Psaki said.

The move comes amid wide spread amid criticism of China's human rights record.

What is a diplomatic boycott?

Under such a boycott, US athletes would still compete in the Olympics but the US will not be sending dignitaries to the games.

"The athletes on Team USA have our full support. We will be behind them 100% as we cheer them on from home," Psaki.

Why is the US ordering a diplomatic boycott?

The move is a protest at China's human rights record, which includes allegations of genocide against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim people in China’s Xinjiang region. Last year, China introduced a national security law in Hong Kong, which makes it easier to punish protesters and reduces Hong Kongers' autonomy.

More recently, there have been concerns over tennis player Peng Shuai who has not been seen or heard from since using Chinese social media to make allegations of sexual abuse against the country’s former Vice Premier.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said a diplomatic boycott “a necessary step to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to human rights in the face of the Chinese government’s unconscionable abuses.”

China has promised to make the games "simple and excellent". Credit: AP

How China react to the move?

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a news briefing earlier in Beijing that those calling for a boycott are "grandstanding" and should stop "so as not to affect the dialogue and cooperation between China and the United States in important areas."

He continued: "If the US insists in wilfully clinging to its course, China will take resolute countermeasures."

Will other countries follow the US' lead?

There is a growing movement calling for athletes, sponsors and spectators to boycott the Games, following allegations of human rights abuses committed by the Chinese state.

Earlier this year, MPs called for a UK diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics saying allowing it to go ahead amid accusations of alleged genocide against Uyghur Muslims was akin to "appeasing Hitler".

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the United States has been consulting with allies on a "shared approach" to the Beijing Games in light of their concerns about China's human rights record

So far, Russian President Vladimir Putin is the only leader of a major country who has accepted China's invitation to attend.