China has shot a clear warning at human rights groups rallying for countries to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics over human rights complaints.
Editor of China's propaganda mouthpiece The Global Times Hu Xijin warned that the government would "seriously sanction any country" that makes a statement against the superpower by refusing to send athletes to Beijing.
"Boycotting 2022 Beijing Winter Games, an unpopular idea, won't receive wide support," Hu Xijin wrote on Twitter on Sunday.
"IOC and athletes will both oppose it, and China will seriously sanction any country that follows such a call."
The development came after a coalition of 180 human rights organisations banded together in an open letter to world governments, urging they boycott the 2022 Games to "ensure they are not used to embolden the Chinese government's appalling rights abuses and crackdowns on dissent".
"The IOC foolishly decided on having the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing (so) we are forced to speak out," Kalden Obara, president of the Tibetan Community in Japan, said at a Tokyo news conference last week.
"If China doesn't stop human rights violations in Tibet and the neighbouring regions, then China should not be allowed to host this 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing."
China's treatment of its Uyghur Muslim population in the Western Xinjian region is at the forefront of the international disagreement. The government has been accused of holding over a million Uyghurs and other minorities in camps, collecting large amounts of international backlash.
US President Joe Biden's administration refused to comment on whether the United States supported moving or boycotting the games in the current climate.
"We're not currently talking about changing our posture or our plans as it relates to the Beijing Olympics," White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Wednesday, before referring to the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee for further comment.
The USOPC holds the belief any boycotts of an international sporting event would only hurt the athletes and believes issues of human rights should be dealt with in the political theatre, not on the ski slopes.
"We oppose Games boycotts because they have been shown to negatively impact athletes while not effectively addressing global issues," the USOPC said in a statement.
"We believe the more effective course of action is for the governments of the world and China to engage directly on human rights and political issues," it said.
Last month Australia joined Canada, the UK and US in condemning what was the largest crackdown yet under Hong Kong's controversial national security law, which has been used to stifle political protests by students.
The joint statement alleged the laws were being used to "eliminate dissent and opposing political views" and called on authorities to respect the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents.
text by Alex Blair, news.com.au