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An Olympic-themed sculpture in Beijing on Dec. 1. Photo: Hou Yu/China News Service via Getty Images

The U.S. announced Monday that it will not send officials to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in protest of human rights abuses committed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Why it matters: The diplomatic boycott — which won't prevent American athletes from competing — marks a major escalation between the U.S. and China amid already heightened tensions over the CCP's treatment of Muslim minorities, military threats to Taiwan and economic tariffs.

  • China said in April that there would be a "robust Chinese response" if the U.S. staged a full boycott of the Games, which are scheduled to start in February.

What they're saying: "The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, given the PRC's ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

  • "The athletes on Team USA have our full support, we’ll be behind them 100% as we cheer them on from home," she added. "We will not be contributing to the fanfare of the Games."
  • "We believe U.S. athletes, people who have been training, giving up a lot of blood, sweat and tears preparing for these Olympics, should be able to go and compete."

The big picture: The U.S. declared earlier this year that the CCP's actions against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, which include mass internment, forced labor and forced sterilization, constituted "genocide" and "crimes against humanity."

  • Before the boycott had been announced, the CCP and state media organizations had claimed that the Biden administration was politicizing the sporting event.
  • Nearly half of Americans are against China hosting the Games, according to an Axios/Momentive poll completed in August.
  • The diplomatic move also comes after the Women's Tennis Association suspended all tournaments in China and Hong Kong over Beijing's treatment of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai.

Go deeper: Olympics sponsors caught between U.S. and China

Go deeper

Jan 15, 2022 - Health

Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics

A man looks out at a security guard from behind a fence Jan. 14 at a Beijing hotel housing those who have arrived for the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics. Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Beijing on Saturday reported its first locally transmitted case of Omicron, less than three weeks before the start of the Winter Olympics, Reuters reports.

Driving the news: Lab testing found "mutations specific to the Omicron variant" of COVID-19 in the individual, an official at the city's disease control authority told a news briefing, per Reuters.

Updated Jan 14, 2022 - World

HRW criticizes Biden over "mixed signals" on human rights

Photo: Dustin Chambers/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Human Rights Watch criticized President Biden and other leaders of democratic nations for sending "mixed signals" on human rights in its annual World Report published on Thursday, saying they "are not meeting the challenges before them."

Why it matters: Though Biden pledged to put human rights at the center of his foreign policy, HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth wrote that weapon sales to repressive governments and public reticence on certain human rights violations place those promises in question.

17 mins ago - Health

Student's death renews calls for schools to stock opioid overdose drug

Photo: Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

A Connecticut student's death has renewed calls for schools to stock and administer naloxone, a drug that can quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Why it matters: U.S. drug overdose fatalities reached six figures in a 12-month period for the first time in November, and synthetic or natural opioids were the cause of a majority of the overdoses.