President Joe Biden said Thursday that the United States was considering a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing over China’s human rights abuses, a move that would keep American dignitaries, but not athletes, from the Games. Speaking to reporters as he hosted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the Oval Office, Biden said backing a boycott of the Olympics in February is “something we’re considering.” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Thursday that consideration of a diplomatic boycott is driven by concerns about human rights practices in Xinjiang province.
“There are areas that we do have concerns: human rights abuses,” Psaki told reporters. “We have serious concerns.”
The U.S. and other nations traditionally send high-level delegations to each Olympics. First lady Jill Biden led the American contingent to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo this year and second gentleman Doug Emhoff led a delegation to the Paralympic Games.
Next year’s Winter Games will be a platform for China to announce its arrival as a global power. But President Biden is under pressure from human rights campaigners and members of Congress to skip the Games and pull the entire official US diplomatic delegation.
Attending the Games did not come up between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping during their marathon conversation on Monday, according to US officials.
Governments typically send a high-ranking delegation of diplomats to opening ceremonies in a show of international support for the thousands of athletes from around the world who participate. The 2022 Winter Olympics run from Feb. 4-20.