Too early to talk about boycotting China’s Winter Olympics: Blinken

Sarah Zheng
·4-min read

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it was “premature” to discuss a boycott of the Beijing-hosted Winter Olympics in 2022, but that the US would take “concrete actions” to ensure it was not using products made in Xinjiang over its human rights abuses there.

In a Sunday interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Blinken said the US was “not focused on a boycott” but was consulting closely with allies and partners on their concerns in Xinjiang, where up to 1 million ethnic Uygurs and other minorities are believed to have been detained.

US considers joint boycott of 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

He said the US needed to “bring the world together” to condemn Beijing’s repression of ethnic Uygurs and other minorities in Xinjiang, and ensure that US companies were not providing China with things that could be used for repression.

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“We need to be looking at products that are made in that part of China to make sure that they’re not coming here; but we also have to make sure that we are dealing with all of our interests, and what is the best way to effectively advance our interests and our values,” Blinken said.

“We have to be able to deal with China on areas where those interests are implicated and require working with China, even as we stand resolutely against egregious violations of human rights or, in this case, acts of genocide.”

There have been growing discussions over a boycott by the US and is allies of the 2022 Olympics over Beijing’s actions in Xinjiang, with the US State Department earlier distancing itself from statements that a boycott was something that “we certainly wish to discuss” with allies.

Beijing has ramped up its defence in recent weeks of its Xinjiang policies, with the Chinese foreign ministry insisting the US Olympic Committee and international community would not accept an Olympics boycott and that US criticism of forced labour claims in Xinjiang were “doomed to fail”.

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The US, European Union, Canada and Britain have imposed sanctions on Chinese officials over human rights issues in Xinjiang, which Beijing has countered with its own sanctions, including on European Parliament members and European scholars on China. There have also been state-endorsed calls for a consumer boycott of multinational companies, including the Swedish brand H&M, over statements they would not use cotton from Xinjiang because of the forced labour allegations.

Blinken on Sunday also reaffirmed that the US stood behind Taiwan, in the face of increasing aggression from Beijing towards the self-ruled island, which it has threatened to bring under its rule, by force if necessary.

“We have a serious commitment to Taiwan being able to defend itself,” he said. “We have a serious commitment to peace and security in the western Pacific. And in that context, it would be a serious mistake for anyone to try to change that status quo by force.”

On the Covid-19 pandemic, Blinken said the US needed to “get to the bottom” of the virus origins, after criticising China for not being transparent in the early stages of the outbreak.

“We need to do that precisely, so we fully understand what happened in order to have the best shot possible at preventing it from happening again,” he said.

World Health Organization experts released a report on the origins of the virus in late March, following a long-delayed trip to Wuhan. The document – which was controversial even before it was published – said it was “likely to very likely” that Covid-19 spread to humans from an intermediate animal host. It has been criticised by 14 countries, including the US, for the mission’s lack of access to “complete, original data and samples”.

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