China accused the United States of “politicising sports” on Wednesday, after Washington said it would discuss calls to boycott the Beijing Olympics with its allies after growing pressure to shun the Winter Games on human rights grounds.

Republican politicians in the US have led calls for a boycott of the Olympics, in part over what rights monitors say is the mass incarceration and indoctrination of more than a million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim people in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

File photo: Viola Kam/United Social Press.

China has rejected the claims and said Wednesday that allegations of genocide are “the lie of the century from top to bottom”.

“As for the idea of a so-called joint boycott of the Beijing Olympics, I want to stress that politicising sports goes against the spirit of the Olympic Charter, and damages the rights and interests of each country’s athletes and the global Olympic cause,” said foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.

He said it would “not be accepted by the international community.”

On Tuesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price was asked if the United States would consider a joint boycott with allies and said it was “something that we certainly wish to discuss.” 

But he later stressed that the United States does not “have any announcement regarding the Beijing Olympics,” writing on Twitter that “we will continue to consult closely with allies and partners to define our common concerns and establish our shared approach.”

“When it comes to our concerns with the government in Beijing, including Beijing’s egregious human rights violations — its conduct of genocide in the case of Xinjiang,” Price said, US action is “meaningful” but an effort that “brings along our allies and partners will have all the more influence with Beijing.”

Joe Biden. Photo: The White House/Adam Schultz, via Flickr.

President Joe Biden’s administration has repeatedly kept the door open to boycotting the Olympics without announcing any firm direction.

A potential boycott of the Beijing Olympics has increasingly become embroiled in US domestic politics, with Republicans seeking to paint Biden as hypocritical and soft on China.

The United States led a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, with the Soviet bloc snubbing the Summer Games in Los Angeles four years later in retaliation.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.