President Biden said on Thursday that the United States was considering a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing amid growing pressure to hold China accountable for human rights abuses.
The boycott would mean that no U.S. government officials would attend the Games, which are slated to begin in February, though it would not prevent U.S. athletes from competing.
As he met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, Mr. Biden responded to a reporter’s question about the potential for a diplomatic boycott by saying it was “something we are considering.”
The comment came after hawkish Republicans have for months called for the administration to use the Olympics as an opportunity to punish China over human rights violations. In a call this week with China’s leader, Xi Jinping, Mr. Biden raised concerns about abuses in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong, according to a White House statement, as well as Beijing’s economic policies that the administration has sought to make a focus of its foreign policy strategy.
But the two leaders did not discuss the Beijing Olympics earlier this week.
“They didn’t talk about the Olympics during the meeting,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Thursday. “We see it through the prism of competition, not conflict, that is our objective.”
But Ms. Psaki acknowledged “we do have concern,” noting the human rights abuses. “I want to leave the president the space to make decisions,” she said.
Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, who ran the committee that organized the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, called in March for an economic and diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Olympics for China’s human rights abuses against Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region and its crackdown on protesters and journalists in Hong Kong. Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, called on Thursday for a total boycott of the event.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has also called for the president to withhold a U.S. delegation from attending, although she has said athletes should be able to compete.