There’s a pretty serious reason, TBH.
Every few years, athletes from all over the world come together to celebrate unity through sportsmanship. And now that the 2022 Winter Olympics in China are kicking into gear, viewers across the globa are excited to see the festivities unfold. However, things aren’t that simple. Multiple countries are boycotting the games this year, and they’re all doing it for the same reason. So, who’s boycotting the 2022 Winter Olympics? Here’s why some countries are giving the games the cold shoulder.
This year, the Winter Games are scheduled to take place in Beijing, the capital city of China. After years of discussion on the possibility of boycotting the Beijing Olympics due to alleged human rights abuses against the Uyghur people in Xinjiang, in the northwest of China, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki announced the United States would take part in a “diplomatic boycott” for the 2022 Games. This means that, while U.S. athletes are still allowed to compete, the Biden administration won’t be sending any government officials to represent the nation at the games. Soon after the announcement, several other countries — including Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, and Japan — followed suit. China has denied the allegations of genocide and human rights abuses.
“The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games given [China’s] ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses,” Psaki said during a Dec. 6, 2021 news conference. “U.S. 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,” she added, “and we simply can’t do that.”
In January 2021, the U.S. State Department alleged the Chinese government was committing genocide and wide-scale crimes against humanity in their repression of the Uyghur community, as well as other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in the country’s northwestern region. “I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uighurs by the Chinese party-state,” former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a Jan. 19, 2021 statement, using an alternative spelling for the community. He later added that Chinese officials were “engaged in the forced assimilation and eventual erasure of a vulnerable ethnic and religious minority group.” Human rights abuses by the Chinese government include the alleged use of large-scale internment camps, forced sterilization, family separation, torture, forced labor, and more.
Zhao Lijian, Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of People's Republic of China, issued a response, calling the allegations of abuses and genocide “the most preposterous lie of the century” in a June 2021 statement. “The more diligently the US works to fabricate lies on China's human rights conditions and disguise itself as human rights defender,” Lijian added, “the more it exposes its guilty conscience burdened by its grave human rights problems at home.”
Although athletes are still able to attend and participate in the games, U.S. government officials have warned competitors to stay cautious, as any athlete behavior that goes against Chinese rules or laws will lead to consequences. “Any expression that is in line with the Olympic spirit I’m sure will be protected,” Yang Shu, the deputy director of international relations for the Beijing organizing committee, said during a Jan. 18 press conference, per The Guardian. “Any behavior or speech that is against the Olympic spirit, especially against the Chinese laws and regulations, are also subject to certain punishment.”
The 2022 Winter Olympics are already being heavily scrutinized amid outbreaks of the highly contagious Omicron variant across China. So while the games are still going on, it’ll no doubt be difficult for many viewers to ignore the heavy reason why so many countries are boycotting the 2022 Winter Olympics.