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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration might soon declare a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, a measure Utah Sen. Mitt Romney has called for since March.
Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin wrote Tuesday that the White House, according to several sources familiar with the plan, is expected to announce that neither President Joe Biden nor any other U.S. government officials will attend the Olympics, scheduled to start Feb. 4.
The diplomatic boycott is intended, the sources say, as a way to respond to the Chinese government's human rights abuses without impacting U.S. athletes, Rogin wrote.
Romney, who led the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games, responded to the possible diplomatic boycott in a statement Tuesday.
"In authoritarian states like China, the Olympics has more often been a tool of propaganda than a lever of reform," he said. "It is unacceptable for China to have the honor of hosting the Olympics while the Chinese Communist Party commits genocide against the Uyghur people."
Romney noted that the Senate passed his amendment putting a diplomatic boycott into law in June.
"With the Games starting in just three months, I hope the administration does not wait a moment longer to send a strong message to the CCP, while safeguarding the dreams and hard work of U.S. athletes. Our national anthem should be played in Beijing," he said.
In March, Romney, R-Utah, called for an economic and diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Games. He urged Biden to stand with the oppressed in China, saying the country "deserves our condemnation" over a list of issues, including what he described as genocide against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities.
Rather than send the traditional delegation of diplomats and White House officials to Beijing, the president should invite Chinese dissidents, religious leaders and ethnic minorities to represent the U.S., he said in a New York Times op-ed.
China "does not deserve an Olympic showcase," Romney said earlier. Beijing, host of the 2008 Summer Games, was selected years ago for 2022 after other serious competitors dropped out largely due to a lack of local support.
Although the Biden administration has not finalized a decision, a formal recommendation has been made to the president and he is expected to approve it before the end of the month, Rogin wrote, citing administration sources.
Administration officials have been virtually silent on Olympics-related issues in recent months, refusing to speculate on whether Biden would support a full athlete boycott (as human rights groups and activists are calling for), or a more limited boycott, or no boycott at all, according to Rogin.
Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping had met virtually Monday night, but the Olympics apparently didn't come up during the 3½-hour meeting.
"President Biden raised concerns about the (People's Republic of China's) practices in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, as well as human rights more broadly," the White House readout of the meeting stated.
In a May hearing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called for a U.S. diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics as a way to express international concern about China's human rights abuses without punishing U.S. athletes.
Romney has said the United States shouldn't go it alone in protesting China during the Olympics.
"We should enlist our friends around the world to join our economic boycott," he said in March. "Limiting spectators, selectively shaping our respective delegations and refraining from broadcasting Chinese propaganda would prevent China from reaping many of the rewards it expects from the Olympics."
It's unacceptable that China gets to host the Olympics while the CCP commits genocide against Uyghurs. I've long-advocated for a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Games and I'm hopeful that the Administration will send a strong message to the CCP, without punishing U.S. athletes. https://t.co/Ii0DrRXOBC— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) November 16, 2021