China calls US decision to send diplomatic services to Beijing amid boycott ‘baffling’

China and the U.S. butt heads over definition of diplomatic boycott

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China on Tuesday said that the Biden administration’s decision to send U.S. consular staff to Beijing with American athletes for the Winter Olympics was "baffling" amid the diplomatic boycott

"The U.S. claims it won’t send any diplomatic or official representatives to the Beijing Winter Olympics while at the same time applying for visa for officials from government agencies," foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said during a Tuesday press event. "This is rather baffling. 

"No matter how the U.S. twists and turns in an attempt to justify itself, the fact is there for all to see," he added.

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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian speaks during a daily briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Beijing. 

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian speaks during a daily briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Beijing.  (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)

The Chinese spokesman called the U.S. diplomatic boycott of the winter games a "farce" earlier this week and said the U.S. had requested visa applications for diplomatic personnel.

But the State Department pushed back on the spokesman’s comments and said sending consular staff to Beijing with American athletes was "standard."

"We intend to provide consular and diplomatic security services to ensure our athletes, coaches, trainers, and staff are secure and have access to the American citizen services that we provide to all U.S. citizens overseas," a State Department spokesperson told Fox News. 

"Any visa application would be for those consular and diplomatic security personnel," the spokesman added. "It is standard to have those personnel on the ground, and those personnel do not constitute official or diplomatic representation at the Games."

The Biden administration announced earlier this month that the U.S. would not send any diplomatic officials to the Olympics in protest of gross human rights abuses committed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). 

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Exile Tibetans use the Olympic Rings as a prop as they hold a street protest against the holding of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

Exile Tibetans use the Olympic Rings as a prop as they hold a street protest against the holding of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia, File)

China has condemned the decision and accused the U.S. of politicizing the Olympics. 

Support for the boycott was divided amongst U.S. lawmakers with Republicans and Democrats on the Hill both championing the administration and faulting it for not taking further action to deter PRC human right’s abuses. 

"It’s clear that the President’s diplomatic boycott of the Olympics is not enough," Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley told Fox News. "The White House should be far more aggressive in cracking down on forced labor across China and ensure that American companies are working to purge their supply chains of global slavery."

Some lawmakers, like Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton, argued U.S. athletes should be barred from competing and suggested he was concerned for their safety.

"What will they do to one of our athletes if one of those young men or women should dare speak up about Tibet or Hong Kong or Taiwan, or any of China's crimes against the civilized world?" he questioned in a Fox News interview earlier this month. 

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But Cotton was not assured by the decision to send consular staffers to China and said, "President Biden’s half-measure is no boycott at all."

"The United States should fully boycott the Genocide Games in Beijing," he added Tuesday.