China warned Western nations that they would "pay the price" for a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

The United States announced its boycott earlier in the week, saying it was prompted by widespread rights abuses by China and what it sees as a "genocide" against the Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.

Australia, Britain and Canada followed suit yesterday.

The boycott stopped short of not sending athletes but nonetheless infuriated China, which has now hinted at retaliation.

"The US, Australia, Britain and Canada's use of the Olympic platform for political manipulation is unpopular and self-isolating, and they will inevitably pay the price for their wrongdoing," foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters.

Advocacy groups have backed the boycott, with Human Rights Watch's China director Sophie Richardson calling it a "crucial step toward challenging the Chinese government's crimes against humanity targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic communities".

Campaigners say that at least one million Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in "re-education camps" in Xinjiang, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour.

China has defended the camps as vocational training centres aimed at reducing the appeal of Islamic extremism.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said yesterday that he was staying politically neutral on the matter, while insisting the important point was "the participation of the athletes in the Olympic Games".

All four of the boycotting Western countries have seen relations with China cool dramatically in recent years.

Britain has also criticised China for its crackdown in Hong Kong.

It angered China last year by blocking Chinese tech giant Huawei's involvement in its 5G broadband rollout, after the US raised spying concerns.

Canada's relations with China meanwhile hit a low over the December 2018 arrest in Vancouver on a US warrant of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, and China's detention of two Canadian nationals in response.
All three were released and repatriated in September.

Australia's ties with China have also been in freefall in recent years, with the Chinese government introducing a raft of punitive sanctions on Australian goods.

China has been angered at Australia's willingness to legislate against overseas influence operations, its barring of Huawei from 5G contracts, and its call for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Australia's recent move to equip its navy with nuclear-powered submarines under a new defence pact with Britain and the US - further angered China.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the UK's boycott in parliament yesterday but joined the other three nations in saying athletes should still attend.

"I do not think that sporting boycotts are sensible - that remains the policy of the government," he added.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canadian officials too would skip the Games, saying his government is "extremely concerned by the repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government".

Australia's leader Scott Morrison made a similar announcement earlier in the day.

Other countries are weighing their own moves.

The French Education and Sports Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said France would not boycott the event, but the decision was not confirmed by Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Asked about a boycott by other Western countries, Mr Blanquer told RMC radio and BFM television that France "won't do it", although Mr Le Drian told a press conference at around the same time that Paris was still seeking a common EU stance on the issue.

"We need to be careful about the link between sports and politics," Mr Blanquer said during the interview.

"Sports is a world apart that needs to be protected from political interference. If not, things can get out of control and it could end up killing all of the competitions."

He said France would carry on condemning human rights violations in China.

Russia has criticised the US move, saying the 2022 games should be "free of politics".

Russian President Vladimir Putin has already accepted an invitation by Chinese leader Xi Jinping to attend.