2022 Beijing Olympics Boycott: Europe Divided as China Warns of Retaliation

Written by | Friday, December 10th, 2021

The United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia will pay a price for their “mistaken acts” after deciding not to send government delegations to February’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, China has warned, demonstrating the Asian power’s escalating diplomatic tensions with the US and its major allies. Washington was the first to announce a boycott, saying on Monday (6 December) its government officials would not attend the games because of China’s human rights “atrocities”. These include the persecution on pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong, a former British colony, and human rights abuses against Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region. Then the UK, Canada and Australia on Wednesday (8 December) joined the US in the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics in February. As with the other boycotting countries, UK prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed athletes would still attend, saying: “I do not think that sporting boycotts are sensible.” This has led Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson at the Chinese foreign ministry, to accuse the US and its allies to use “the Olympics platform for political manipulation,” adding that “they will have to pay the price for their mistaken acts.”
China’s warning came as the European Union considers its response to the growing call for boycott. French foreign affairs minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called on Thursday for a common European stand regarding the diplomatic boycott of the Games. But Le Drian’s comment came shortly after French education and sports minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said Paris would not follow suit. “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.” In Germany, the country’s Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) does not approve of a diplomatic boycott, with DOSB vice-president Stephan Mayer saying he was “not so sure” a diplomatic boycott “is the right way.” According to Mayer, it is “very important to use the Winter Olympics in Beijing in order to discuss certain issues like the rule of law, and especially the human rights issues, with the government of China.”
While the diplomatic boycott does not affect the athletes’ ability to compete in the Games, International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Thomas Bach warned that the politicization could threaten the future of the Olympics. “If we would start to take political sides on one way or the other, we would never get all the 206 national Olympic committees to the Olympic Games,” Bach said. On the other hand, rights groups have called for a full boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, citing Chinese human rights abuses against its Uyghur minority in the northwest Xinjiang province, which some have called genocide. Human Rights Watch’s China director Sophie Richardson called the diplomatic boycott a “crucial step toward challenging the Chinese government’s crimes against humanity targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic communities”.

Article Categories:
Asia-Pacific · GLOBAL EUROPE

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