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Why is the US boycotting the 2022 Beijing Olympics?

Human rights groups and other governments around the world are accusing China of genocide in the Xinjiang region.
Credit: AP
A woman talks on a phone while sitting inside the main media center at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Countries around the globe, including the United States which is leading the effort, have announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics over the alleged repression of the Muslim Uyghur minority in the country’s Xinjiang region. 

While the many countries involved in the boycott are still sending athletes to compete in the Winter Games, the diplomatic boycott stems from the international criticism over human rights in China. 

Countries that have announced not sending over an official diplomatic delegation include Denmark, The Netherlands, the U.S., Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Britain and Canada. 

Not sending a diplomatic delegation to the games means a high-ranking politician of a country will not be present among other government officials at the Winter Games.

So, what's the big deal?

Human rights groups and other governments around the world are accusing China of genocide in the Xinjiang region. 

The U.S. State Department reports that up to two million Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities have been detained where they are put through forced labor, according to The New York Times.

Where does China stand?

China denies these allegations and says the U.S. is acting "out of ideological prejudice and based on lies and rumors," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters last month.

The country also accused the U.S. and other countries of violating the Olympic spirit and turning the Games into a political showdown.

Who are the Uyghurs?

About 12 million Uyghurs live in Xinjiang in the northwest region of China. Most of the people are Muslim and speak their own language, which is much like Turkish. 

Over the last few decades, the BBC reports, a mass migration of Han Chinese has moved into Xinjiang. Uyghur activists believe it's orchestrated to dilute the minority population and fear the group's culture is under threat of being erased.

The International Olympic Committee has maintained that the Games are nonpolitical and has strict rules against athletes protesting at the podium ceremonies.

However, the diplomatic boycott doesn't mean much for the athletes competing at the games and it's really only a cause for concern for nation relations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia and China oppose “the politicization of sport and demonstrative boycotts” ahead of the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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