Canada, Australia, UK envoys skip 2022 Games; France 'won't do it'

Canada joined Australia, Britain and the United States in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, while France said on Thursday that "they won't do it."
Canada, Australia, UK envoys skip 2022 Games; France 'won't do it'

Tourists enjoy their "Olympic movement" in Zhangjiakou, Hebei Province, where most of the skiing events for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games will be held in February.

Canada joined Australia, Britain and the United States in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics on Wednesday, while France said on Thursday that "they won't do it." China has called the boycotts "political posturing" and a smear campaign.

The United States was the first to announce the boycott, saying on Monday its government officials would not attend the Games in February because of China's human rights "atrocities," weeks after talks aimed at easing tense relations between the world's two largest economies.

"The United States, Britain and Australia have used the Olympics platform for political manipulation," said Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson at the Chinese foreign ministry.

"They will have to pay the price for their mistaken acts," he said yesterday.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Beijing would be aware of long-standing Western concerns about human rights in China. "(So) it shouldn't be a surprise that we decided not to send diplomatic representation."

A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Canada accused Trudeau of making false claims. "Based on ideological biases as well as lies and rumors, Canada and a handful of Western countries have been flagrantly engaged in political maneuvering, with the attempt to disrupt the smooth progress of Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Their clumsy performance can hardly find any support and is doomed to fail," the spokesperson said in a written statement.

The International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics should not be used to raise global tensions and the athletes' participation is worldwide consensus. He welcomed all the support for the Olympic teams to give athletes certainty on Wednesday.

"This is in full accordance with the approval by consensus of all the UN member states supporting the Olympic Truce Resolution," said the 67-year-old president. "The presence of government officials is a political decision. Political neutrality applies and IOC won't take a side."

"We are living in this confrontational, divisive world where the tensions are rising high. If the games would even contribute to the tensions, it would be absolutely contrary to our mission," said Bach.

Yang Yang, China's first Winter Olympics gold medalist, said, "The politicization of sport and the use of the Olympic Games as a vehicle for political purposes by individual politicians would undoubtedly breach (the) Olympic Charter."

Political interference

France will not join the boycott, Education and Sports Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said yesterday. He told RMC radio and BFM television that France "won't do it."

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

"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.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament, "There will be effectively a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, no ministers are expected to attend and no officials. I do not think that sporting boycotts are sensible and that remains the policy of the government," he added, indicating British athletes will still compete.

China said it had not invited British officials. "Making an issue out of the presence of government officials at the Beijing Winter Olympics is in essence a political smearing campaign," a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in London said.

Earlier, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia's decision came because of its struggles to reopen diplomatic channels with China to discuss alleged human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region and Beijing's moves against Australian imports.

China has denied any wrongdoing in Xinjiang and said allegations are fabricated.

Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Australian politicians were engaged in "political posturing."

"Whether they come or not, nobody cares," he added.

The Australian Olympic Committee said the boycott would have no impact on athletes' preparations for the Games, which run from February 4 to 20, adding that "diplomatic options" were a matter for governments.

For the Canadian Olympic Committee, a diplomatic boycott recognized the distinction between government and athlete participation while providing a platform to shine a light on China issues.

"The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee remain concerned about the issues in China but understand the Games will create an important platform to draw attention to them," said the COC in a statement.

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