WASHINGTON, Feb 3 (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is signaling that it currently has no plans to bar American athletes’ participation in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, despite mounting calls for the Games to be moved over China’s human rights record.
Rights advocacy groups have made demands in recent months for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to take the February 2022 event out of China.
A group of U.S. Republican senators on Tuesday introduced a resolution with a similar call to move the Games after the United States’ designation that the Chinese government was perpetrating genocide against Uighur Muslims in its Xinjiang region. That decision was made in the final days of Donald Trump’s presidency.
“We’re not currently talking about changing our posture or our plans as it relates to the Beijing Olympics,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a news briefing on Wednesday.
“We consult, of course, closely with allies and partners at all levels to define our common concerns and establish a shared approach, but there is no discussion underway of a change in our plans from the United States at this point in time,” she said.
The White House and the State Department, asked repeatedly in recent days whether the Biden administration supported moving the Games, or if it had engaged with allies over a potential boycott, has referred reporters to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) for further comment.
“We oppose Games boycotts because they have been shown to negatively impact athletes while not effectively addressing global issues,” the USOPC said in a statement.
“We believe the more effective course of action is for the governments of the world and China to engage directly on human rights and political issues,” it said.
Biden’s White House has not previously suggested publicly that it would oppose China as host, despite Beijing facing international condemnation for running labor and detention camps in Xinjiang.
An independent U.N. panel noted in 2018 that it had received credible reports that at least 1 million Uighurs and other Muslims had been held in the region, which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan. Beijing describes them as “vocational training centers” to stamp out extremism, and denies accusations of abuse.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week he backed the genocide designation made by the Trump administration while favoring cooperation with China on climate change and other issues. (Reporting by Michael Martina, Jarrett Renshaw and Nandita Bose in Washington and Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Mary Milliken and Grant McCool)