'Deflecting attention': USA rejects China's Winter Olympics claim

Pictured left is Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden on the right.
The USA has denied accusations from China that it is actively encouraging athletes to cause disruptions at the Winter Olympics. Pic: Getty

The United States has denied explosive accusations from China that suggest its actively trying to destabilise the Winter Olympic Games, which are set to get underway later this week.

The accusations come days before the start of the most politicised Games in recent memory, with China claiming that America is paying its athletes to "create disturbances" during the Beijing Winter Games.

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China Daily newspaper, citing "sources familiar with the matter", said there was a plot by Washington to persuade athletes to "play passively" or refuse to take part in competitions and "express discontent toward China".

"The sources stressed that Washington's plan is a new example demonstrating attempts by some anti-China forces in the United States to politicise sports and maliciously disrupt and spoil the Beijing Winter Olympic Games," the article said.

In return the United States will offer financial compensation and work to protect the reputations of athletes who cooperate, according to the paper.

Washington is leading a diplomatic boycott of the Games by a group of Western nations (including Australia) over China's human rights record, in particular its crackdown on Muslim Uyghurs in the western region of Xinjiang that the United States has labelled "genocide".

The countries taking part in the boycott are not sending officials to Beijing for Friday's opening ceremony but their athletes will participate in competitions.

However, the US embassy in Beijing flatly rejected suggestions from China that its government was using American athletes to undermine the Games.

The US embassy did however stress that athletes had a right to freedom of speech, in a pointed message about China's questionable human rights record.

"We were not and are not coordinating a global campaign regarding participation at the Olympics," an embassy spokesperson said in an email to AFP.

"US athletes are entitled to express themselves freely in line with the spirit and charter of the Olympics, which includes advancing human rights."

China's human rights record under the microscope

The embassy said Beijing was seeking to "deflect attention from their egregious human rights record".

"We expect the PRC to ensure the safety and well-being of our athletes - and all athletes - competing in Beijing and to respect their human rights and fundamental freedoms," the spokesperson said.

Seen here, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi addresses the Manila Forum for China-Philippines Relations via video.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi addresses a forum via video in January, 2022. Pic: Getty

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi already urged the United States last week to "stop disrupting" the Olympics during a phone call with his American counterpart Antony Blinken.

Adding to the acrimony surrounding the Games, Germany's top official for snowboarding said he feared Covid-19 tests were being exploited in Beijing to exclude stronger athletes.

But Michael Hoelz offered no evidence for his claim and health officials in Beijing told a briefing over the weekend that there was no reason to question the credibility of the tests.

"The PCR test we adopt follows the standards of the World Health Organisation and other international standards," said Huang Chen, an official with the Olympic organising committee's Covid prevention office.

He said the testing procedures were agreed at a meeting of Chinese and foreign experts from the International Olympic Committee.

Dr Brian McCloskey, chair of the IOC's Medical Expert Panel, said the group of experts "are satisfied with the standards we are working to".

with AFP

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