OTTAWA – International politics surrounding the Beijing Olympics escalated on Monday when the United States announced it would hold a “diplomatic boycott” of the Games to protest China’s human rights abuses – a move the United States authoritarian regime condemned it as an “outright political provocation”.
Canada is considering a similar boycott, but Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge said moments after the United States announced that the Liberal administration in Ottawa had yet to decide to reflect American action and s ‘refrain from sending government officials to the next Olympic Winter Games in China. Capital city.
In a brief statement to reporters outside the House of Commons, St-Onge said the government is still discussing the issue with all of Canada’s “traditional” allies, although she did not specify which ones. She also left without answering questions about the factors Ottawa considered as she considered joining the Americans in voicing her opposition to the Chinese government’s rights violations.
This includes a crackdown on democratic freedoms in Hong Kong, as well as government oppression of Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region which the House of Commons has declared “genocide.”
“We are, of course, very concerned about the human rights violations in China,” St-Onge said. “This is not a decision that we will take lightly, and as soon as we make the decision, we will communicate it to you. ”
The minister’s office said she was unavailable for an interview with the Star on Monday.
US President Joe Biden first signaled that his country was considering a boycott of the Games in November, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Washington for a summit with the US and Mexican leaders. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that an official US government presence at the Games would not recognize “gross human rights violations and atrocities in Xinjiang.”
The chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez, also called on American partners “who share our values to join the United States in this diplomatic boycott.”
The Chinese government condemned the move, foreign minister spokesman Zhao Lijian accusing the United States of “outright political provocation” and “demagoguery”.
Zhao also cautioned against Chinese “countermeasures,” but gave no details on what it might be.
Meanwhile, on Parliament Hill, all official opposition parties are calling on the Liberal government to at least follow the United States with a diplomatic boycott of Canada. Such a decision appears to be the only one on the table, as St-Onge has indicated that it respects the desire of the Canadian Olympic Committee for Canadian athletes to travel to Beijing to compete in the Winter Games.
Speaking to reporters on Monday morning, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said he had “grappled” with what he thought Canada should do, given the importance of the Games to Canadian athletes who have trained for years to participate.
But he said that at the end of the day the “best thing” for Canada is to organize a diplomatic boycott.
In a statement Monday, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP also call on Canada to prevent officials from attending the Games.
But it’s not clear that such a boycott will accomplish anything – other than sending a symbolic objection to China’s human rights record that will likely offend the authoritarian regime in Beijing, said Rob Housman, a former White House official who worked on Olympic reforms in the 1990s for US President Bill Clinton.
In an interview with The Star on Monday, Housman argued that a diplomatic boycott could put athletes at risk if they run into problems with Chinese authorities during the Games. Citing the example of American athletes arrested for allegedly vandalizing a gas station during the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, Housman said a Games-related government presence during the event is essential in helping athletes who have disabilities. trouble with the authorities.
“You’re not hurting China… All you do is put your athletes at risk,” Housman said of the possibility of Canada following the diplomatic boycott of the United States.
“It would be a really stupid mistake to instinctively follow what I think is a bad decision,” he said.
With files from The Associated Press
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