Biden says 'considering' US diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The coal-powered Datang International Zhangjiakou Power Station is pictured at night in Zhangjiakou, one of the host cities for the 2022 Winter Olympics, in China's northern Hebei province on November 12, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

President Joe Biden says he is "considering" a US diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

That is "something we are considering," Biden told reporters on Thursday when asked if a diplomatic boycott was under consideration.

The move would mean that US officials would not attend the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February.

This comes as members of Congress from both parties have been pressing the Biden administration to diplomatically boycott the event given that the US government accuses Beijing of committing "genocide" against the Muslim Uighur minority in the Xinjiang region, something that China denies.

In October, a bipartisan group of US senators put forward an amendment to an annual defense policy bill that would ban the US State Department from spending federal funds to "support or facilitate" the attendance of US government employees at the Games.

The latest US decision would be a rebuke of Chinese President Xi Jinping just days after Xi and Biden discussed ways to ease tensions in a virtual summit, their first extensive talks since the US president took office in January.

Also on Thursday, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told a news briefing that US consideration of a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics was driven by concerns about alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang province.

"There are areas that we do have concerns: human rights abuses," Psaki said. "We have serious concerns."

"Certainly there are a range of factors as we look at what our presence would be," she said, while declining to provide a timeline for a decision. "I want to leave the president the space to make decisions.”

Last year, a UN human rights panel alleged that up to two million Uighurs had been forced into “political camps for indoctrination” in the autonomous region, which is home to about 10 million Uighurs.

China rejects claims of mistreating Uighurs, saying it has been taking anti-terrorism measures against separatists in the region who are seeking to join Takfiri outfits such as al-Qaeda.

Beijing describes the camps in Xinjiang as “vocational education and employment training centers,” which are part of its efforts to tackle underdevelopment and a lack of employment in the area.

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