René Provost, a professor of international law at McGill University, said diplomatic boycotts can help to “insert human rights into the conversation.”
The Olympics are a way for China to show it is “strong and central on the global stage,” Mr. Provost added. “So to put human rights as part of that picture does interfere with China’s messaging.”
Zhao Lijian of China’s Foreign Ministry said that the United States should “stop politicizing sports.” Although he went on to warn that “China will take resolute countermeasures,” he gave no details about how the country might retaliate. He has noted that Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, accepted an invitation from Mr. Xi to the Olympics.
The deputy prime minister of New Zealand, Grant Robertson, told Television New Zealand on Tuesday that its diplomats had communicated to Beijing in October that they would not be attending the Winter Games. He cited a “range of factors” for the decision, but said it was mostly because of the challenges of traveling during the coronavirus pandemic. New Zealand had made clear to China on numerous occasions “our concerns about human rights issues,” he said.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said last month that the administration was discussing with allies how they planned to approach the Games, although he did not specify whether the United States had asked them to join a coordinated boycott. The administration has continued the informal discussions over the last several weeks, according to two European diplomats involved in the discussions.
One diplomat called the boycott a pragmatic move that makes clear the Biden administration’s displeasure with Beijing’s policies, but did not amount to a full snub, in order to leave room for the delicate and ongoing talks between the United States and China. It was not clear, however, whether European governments would also refuse to send official delegations to the Games, and both diplomats said no decisions had yet been made.
The calls for a boycott have grown louder over the case of Ms. Peng, the Chinese tennis star who accused a former top government official of sexually assaulting her. After the allegation, the Chinese government removed almost all references to her on social media within the country, and she disappeared from public life.