WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States on Tuesday said it aimed to discuss a common approach with its allies towards participation in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, as China’s foreign ministry warned that the world would not accept a boycott.
With calls for a boycott growing over China’s human rights record, State Department spokesman Ned Price repeated concerns over what Washington has described as genocide against Uighur Muslims in the northwestern Xinjiang region, where Beijing denies that rights abuses have taken place.
Asked if the United States was consulting allies over whether to consider a potential joint boycott, Price told a media briefing: “It is something that we certainly wish to discuss…
“We understand that a coordinated approach will be not only in our interests, but also in the interests of our allies and partners.”
Price later clarified in an email that he was referring to the United States having a coordinated approach rather than specifically discussing a joint boycott.
He subsequently wrote in a tweet that there was nothing new to announce. “2022 remains a ways off, but we will continue to consult closely with allies and partners to define our common concerns and establish our shared approach to (China).”
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the idea of a boycott went against the spirit of the Olympic charter and hurt athletes’ interests. “International society will not accept (it)” Zhao Lijian told a news conference in Beijing on Wednesday.
The White House said in February that it had not made a final decision on whether the United States would take part, and would look for guidance from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which had no comment.
Human rights groups have urged the IOC to take the Olympics out of China because of its treatment of Uighur Muslims along with other human rights concerns.
An independent U.N. panel said in 2018 that it had received credible reports that at least 1 million Uighurs and other Muslims had been held in camps in Xinjiang.
Beijing describes them as “vocational training centers” to stamp out extremism, and denies accusations of abuse.
The Biden administration has signaled that it has no plans to bar U.S. athletes from participating in the Beijing Games, a move discouraged by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. But Washington and allies could still push for a diplomatic boycott in which officials do not attend.
The last U.S. Olympic boycott came in 1980 when President Jimmy Carter refused to send American athletes to the Moscow Olympics amid Cold War tensions surrounding the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Simon Lewis, David Brunnstrom and Gabriel Crossley; editing by Jonathan Oatis and John Stonestreet)