Boris Johnson confirms that no UK minister or civil servant will attend the Winter Olympics

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Britain will not send any official representatives to the Beijing Winter Olympics as part of a growing diplomatic boycott by allies of China’s record of human rights abuses.

The government’s decision was announced by Boris Johnson, who said there would be “effectively a diplomatic boycott” of the Games in February as no British ministers or officials will attend. However, he confirmed that the athletes of the GB team will still be able to compete.

The United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have also said they will not send diplomats to the Games due to concerns over the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province, the crackdown on democracy. and freedoms in Hong Kong and repression in Tibet.

Johnson’s comments came after former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith urged him to follow the lead of the United States in carrying out a full diplomatic boycott.

The prime minister said the government had “no hesitation” in raising concerns about human rights violations to China, before adding: “There will indeed be a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics. in Beijing. No minister is expected nor any civil servant. What I can say at home is that I don’t think sports boycotts are reasonable and that remains government policy.

On Wednesday evening, Canada added its voice to the boycott. The country’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, admitted that the decision was made because Canada was “extremely concerned about the repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government”.

When asked if he expected backlash from Beijing for snubbing China as it prepares to welcome the world, Trudeau said “it shouldn’t come as a surprise” to the regime. “For months we have been coordinating and discussing the issue with our allies,” he said.

This message was echoed by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said not sending diplomats was “the right thing to do” due to human rights concerns and a series of disputes. policies with China.

However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin accused Australia of “blindly following” the United States, adding “whether they come or not, nobody cares.” .

Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, also insisted that he was not concerned about the growing number of diplomatic boycotts as the most important thing was that athletes were allowed to compete.

“We cared about the athletes, so we welcome the fact that they can participate and that they are supported by their national governments,” he said. “The rest is political and therefore our principle of political neutrality is applied. “

Bach also defended the IOC against criticism over how he handled contacts with Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who last month alleged she was sexually assaulted by a senior government official in the country.

The IOC has held two video calls with Peng in the past fortnight. However, his situation remains obscured and the IOC has also notably refused to surrender the Chinese government.

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“We have achieved what we could reasonably hope to achieve with these calls,” said Bach. “You have to take care of this human being, and in such a fragile situation that Peng Shuai finds himself in, you have to make every effort to build trust. “

Bach also insisted that the IOC would not have to take sides between China and the West in political matters. “The Games unite the world. If we start to take political sides, one way or another, we will never get the 205 or 206 National Olympic Committees at the Games.

“And that could be the end of the Olympics, as it was the end of the ancient Olympics. Because when politics got involved after 1000 years, when the Roman Emperor stepped in for political reasons, it was the end of the Games.


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