US says it won't send government officials to the 2022 Winter Olympics due to China's human rights "atrocities," as Beijing pledges "countermeasures" against any diplomatic boycott.

China calls the US decision an
China calls the US decision an "outright political provocation," but gives no details on how Beijing might retaliate. (Ng Han Guan / AP)

The United States has announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics but it will not prevent US athletes from competing in China, a move that Beijing has vowed to greet with "firm countermeasures."

Monday's decision comes after Washington spent months wrangling with what position to take on the Games, hosted in February next year by a country it accuses of perpetrating "genocide" against Uighur Muslims in the northwestern Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the US will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing Games given China's "ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses."

China warns against 'political provocation'

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian accused US politicians of grandstanding over the issue of not sending dignitaries to attend events that China hopes will showcase its economic development and technological prowess.

Speaking to reporters at a daily briefing, Zhao said such a move would be an "outright political provocation," but gave no details on how China might retaliate.

"Without being invited, American politicians keep hyping the so-called diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, which is purely wishful thinking and grandstanding," Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing. 

"If the US side is bent on going its own way, China will take firm countermeasures."

Several Western countries and campaigners say that at least one million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in camps in the region, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour.

The Chinese government rejects complaints of abuses and says the camps are for job training to support economic development and combat extremism.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies