Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Friday backed calls for the United States to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, saying China's "nasty" activity made it an inappropriate host.
Pompeo, a vociferous critic of Beijing while he was Donald Trump's top diplomat, said the previous administration had tried in its final months to persuade the International Olympic Committee to move the Winter Games.
"I hope that our athletes get a chance to participate in the Olympics. They very much deserve that," Pompeo told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
"But in the end, we cannot allow American athletes to travel to Beijing and reward the Chinese Communist Party all the while that they (are) doing all of the nasty activity that they're engaged in," he said.
"The Olympics are an expression of freedom and athletic talent. And to hold them in Beijing is completely inappropriate."
A number of Republicans including former UN ambassador Nikki Haley -- like Pompeo, considered a potential presidential candidate in 2024 -- have called for a boycott.
Some have linked a boycott to Beijing's mass incarceration of Uighur Muslims, a policy that Pompeo in his final full day in office declared to be genocide.
Pompeo's successor, Antony Blinken, has agreed with the genocide assessment. But President Joe Biden's administration, like Trump's team while in power, has not stated a position on boycotting the Olympics, which are scheduled to begin on February 4.
China has denounced calls for a boycott and denies genocide, saying it is providing vocational training to minorities to reduce the allure of Islamic extremism.
The United States led a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, with the Soviet bloc in retaliation boycotting the Summer Games in Los Angeles four years later.
© 2021 AFP