Chinese officials confronted with President Joe Biden’s decision to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are managing the snub by insisting that the Americans were “not even being invited” to the Games.
“According to Olympic rules, officials are invited by their respective National Olympic Committee to attend the Olympic Games,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian maintained Tuesday. “Despite not even being invited, the U.S. side linked its officials’ attendance with the so-called human rights issues in Xinjiang, going down the wrong path further by distorting facts while cheating themselves, as well as others.”
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That statement punctuated a line of commentary from outside the foreign ministry to the effect that Chinese Communist officials decided they had little interest in hosting a well-attended international event. Yet Chinese Communist officials have expressed outrage at any high-profile finding that Beijing has imposed a policy of genocide against Uyghur Muslims, particularly as that criticism spurred opposition to the Beijing Olympics.
“The Chinese government’s systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom and other human rights of Uyghur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, and many others betray the Olympic spirit,” U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Vice Chairman Nury Turkel said Monday. “In fact, a genocidal regime should not have been granted the privilege to host the Olympics in the first place.”
Chinese officials have tried to deflect such criticism by projecting an aura of reputational invincibility, even in the face of rebukes such as the ones delivered by lawmakers in the EU Parliament and the British Parliament.
“I would like to reiterate that China firmly opposes the politicization of sports and the interference in other countries' internal affairs by using human rights issues as a pretext,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in July in response to European and British calls for a boycott of the Olympics. “All sectors of the international community, including the governments and Olympic committees of many countries, and the International Olympic Committee, have all expressed their clear opposition to such practice that is doomed to fail.”
Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend the games, an invitation he accepted last month in defiance of widespread fear about the well-being of a Chinese tennis star who accused a retired senior Chinese Communist official of sexual assault. Yet analysts in Beijing amplified the foreign ministry’s newly stated disinterest in attendance by political leaders.
“China does not view the 2022 Winter Games as a chance to display its power or its capacity to host a successful Olympics — it already did so last time,” Tsinghua University’s Zhao Kejin told the South China Morning Post. “Thus the presence of an array of foreign leaders is not something that China is really concerned with diplomatically.”
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Biden’s boycott could be the first of many, as the European Parliament already has voted that senior European politicians should refuse to attend the games in solidarity with the oppressed Uyghurs.
“I also call on other allies and partners that share our values to join with the United States in this diplomatic boycott,” Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said Monday. "As the CCP continues with its mass internments, family separations, forced labor, forced renunciations of faith, and forced sterilizations, the world must be united in confronting the staggering enormity of Beijing’s egregious human rights violations and hold those who perpetuate these atrocities to account.”