Three U.S. allies have joined the White House in announcing diplomatic boycotts of the Beijing Winter Olympics, citing China's human rights abuses.

And Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, has met the news with what amounts to a verbal shrug.

In a news conference Wednesday, Bach continued to downplay the potential impact of the boycotts, which have so far been announced by Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. When asked if he was concerned by the moves, he said he was focused on the fact that the athletes from each country will still be competing.

"The presence of government officials is a purely political decision for each government," Bach said. "And also for this political decision, the principle of the political neutrality of the IOC applies."

The IOC has long fashioned itself as above and outside the world of politics, though critics say the organization repeatedly embraces or ignores specific political issues when it is advantageous.

Its actions – and inactions – on humanitarian issues in China have drawn particular scrutiny as the Beijing Games near.

China has been accused of committing genocide in its treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, cracking down on a pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and threatening the independence of Taiwan. But the IOC has declined to speak about any of those issues or even reference them in a specific way, which human rights advocacy groups say is aiding China's efforts to minimize them.

On Wednesday, for example, Bach referred to U.S. concerns about "the human rights situation in China." When asked later about what exactly that "situation" entails, he did not directly answer the question.

"By not commenting on political issues, you're not taking a side. Neither the one, nor the other," Bach said. "This is the mission of the IOC. Otherwise, we could not manage to accomplish the mission of the Games, to bring and unite the world."

Bach and the IOC have also drawn criticism for two calls they've held with Peng Shuai, a Chinese tennis player and three-time Olympian who publicly accused Zhang Gaoli, a former high-ranking Chinese government official, of sexual assault last month.

Peng's social media accounts were later scrubbed and questions emerged about her whereabouts and well-being. The Women's Tennis Association has since said it will suspend tournaments in China until her accusations are investigated.

As the WTA and others in the tennis world tried to reach Peng, the IOC arranged video calls with her with the apparent assistance and approval of Chinese sports authorities.

Bach was asked Wednesday about the possibility of inviting someone from the tennis world to join IOC officials on a future call, such as Martina Navratilova.

"Why don't you respect Peng Shuai in this, and let her decide where her priorities are?" he replied. "We will not exclude (that possibility). But this is now about ensuring her physical integrity, in a personal and human relationship, building with her and also respecting her."

When asked if he could allay suspicions that Peng might be detained or surveilled by the Chinese government, Bach reiterated that those present on the IOC's video calls "could not feel her being under pressure."

"Many people are saying there are suspicions here and there," he said. "It's very easy to have suspicions. But suspicions you can have always, and about everything."