The United States is paying athletes to “create disturbances” during the Beijing Winter Olympics, Chinese state media reported Saturday.
The accusations come just a week before the start of the most politicised Games in recent memory and immediately drew a denial from the US embassy in China.
China Daily newspaper, citing “sources familiar with the matter”, said there was a plot by Washington to persuade athletes to “play passively” or refuse to take part in competitions and “express discontent toward China”.
“The sources stressed that Washington’s plan is a new example demonstrating attempts by some anti-China forces in the United States to politicize sports and maliciously disrupt and spoil the Beijing Winter Olympic Games,” the article said.
In return the United States will offer financial compensation and work to protect the reputations of athletes who cooperate, according to the paper.
Washington is leading a diplomatic boycott of the Games by a group of Western nations over China’s human rights record, in particular its crackdown on Muslim Uyghurs in the western region of Xinjiang that the United States has labelled “genocide”.
The countries taking part in the boycott are not sending officials to Beijing for Friday’s opening ceremony but their athletes will participate in competitions.
The US embassy in Beijing on Saturday denied the accusations reported in China Daily.
“We were not and are not coordinating a global campaign regarding participation at the Olympics,” an embassy spokesperson said in an email to AFP.
“US athletes are entitled to express themselves freely in line with the spirit and charter of the Olympics, which includes advancing human rights.”
The embassy said Beijing was seeking to “deflect attention from their egregious human rights record”.
“We expect the PRC to ensure the safety and well-being of our athletes — and all athletes — competing in Beijing and to respect their human rights and fundamental freedoms,” the spokesperson said.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi had already urged the United States on Thursday to “stop disrupting” the Olympics during a phone call with his American counterpart Antony Blinken.
Adding to the acrimony surrounding the Games, Germany’s top official for snowboarding on Monday said he feared Covid-19 tests were being exploited in Beijing to exclude stronger athletes.
But Michael Hoelz offered no evidence for his claim and health officials in Beijing told a briefing Saturday that there was no reason to question the credibility of the tests.
“The PCR test we adopt follows the standards of the World Health Organization and other international standards,” said Huang Chen, an official with the Olympic organising committee’s Covid prevention office.
He said the testing procedures were agreed at a meeting of Chinese and foreign experts from the International Olympic Committee.
Dr Brian McCloskey, chair of the IOC’s Medical Expert Panel, said the group of experts “are satisfied with the standards we are working to”.
© Agence France-Presse