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A sculpture depicts Olympic figure skaters for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics at Shougang Park on Dec. 16, 2020 in Beijing, China. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

The Chinese government on Wednesday warned the U.S. that it would respond strongly if Washington boycott's next year's Winter Olympics set to be held in Beijing, AP reports.

Driving the news: The message comes after a State Department spokesman said at a briefing Tuesday that a joint boycott by the U.S. and its allies "is something that we certainly wish to discuss," in response to a question about how to punish China for what observers have described as a genocide against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

  • "[W]hat the United States does is meaningful, what the United States does will have impact," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters Tuesday.
  • A State Department official later walked the comments back, insisting that "we have not discussed and are not discussing any joint boycott with allies and partners."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian denied abuses against the region's Uyghur population, and promised a “robust Chinese response” against a potential boycott.

  • “The politicization of sports will damage the spirit of the Olympic Charter and the interests of athletes from all countries,” Zhao said. “The international community including the U.S. Olympic Committee will not accept it.”

Go deeper: New geopolitical fears surround 2022 Beijing Olympics

Go deeper

Updated Apr 6, 2021 - World

U.S. could consider boycotting 2022 Beijing Olympics with allies

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaking in the State Department on April 5 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Alexander Drago/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. would discuss a joint boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in China with its allies and partners, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said during a press conference on Tuesday.

Why it matters: An Olympics boycott by the U.S. and its allies could help persuade international legal institutions to open an investigation related to allegations of genocide in Xinjiang, human rights lawyer Djaouida Siaci tells Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian.

Apr 6, 2021 - World

Human rights lawyer: Genocide in Xinjiang is "crystal clear"

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Djaouida Siaci

Djaouida Siaci is an international lawyer who focuses on human rights violations, genocide and sexual violence. She spoke to Axios about the international human rights law perspective on the Chinese government's actions in Xinjiang.

Why it matters: Siaci believes that a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics wouldn't just be symbolic; it could help persuade international legal institutions to open an investigation related to allegations of genocide in Xinjiang.

Apr 6, 2021 - World

Global capitalism abets China's repression

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

By incentivizing companies to go along with the Chinese government's repressive policies in Xinjiang and imposing punishments on those that don't, the Chinese Communist Party has made complicity in repression profitable for some companies — and for others, even mandatory.

The big picture: With the second-largest market in the world — one that is projected to surpass the U.S. to take the top spot by 2028 — the Chinese Communist Party has an enormous amount of power.