In a symbolic protest against China's "ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang," the Biden administration has decided not to send an official US delegation to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday.
US athletes will still participate in the Olympics, but the administration will not be sending government officials to the games. The same policy applies to the Paralympic Games to be held in Beijing, CNN reported.
According to CNN, the move marks an escalation of pressure by the US on China over allegations of forced labour and human rights abuses in China's western region of Xinjiang, particularly against the Uyghur population and other ethnic and religious minority groups.
The US is looking to send a "clear message" that the human rights abuses in China mean there cannot be "business as usual," Psaki told media persons at a White House briefing.
President Joe Biden has said last month that he was weighing a diplomatic boycott as Democratic and Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, advocated for a protest of China's human rights abuses, CNN reported.
Psaki said the athletes that will make up Team USA have the administration's "full support," but the administration would not be "contributing to the fanfare of the games."
"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 cannot do that," Psaki said.
Psaki emphasised that the diplomatic boycott of the games does not signify "that is the end of the concerns we will raise about human rights abuses."
The White House has informed its allies abroad of the US decision, Psaki said.
Psaki also said the White House did not feel it was the "right step" or fair, to penalize US athletes who have been training for years by holding an entire US boycott of the Olympics. The last time the US fully boycotted the Olympics was in 1980 when former President Jimmy Carter was in office.
The US generally sends a delegation to the Olympics. Notably, in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, first lady Jill Biden lead the US's diplomatic delegation.
According to a CNN report, the 2022 Winter Olympics was not a topic of conversation during the three-and-a-half-hour summit that Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping held last month. The summit did not yield any major breakthroughs, and none were expected ahead of time. Biden had also raised concerns about human rights, Chinese aggression toward Taiwan and trade issues.