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Canada announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics

December 8, 2021

Canada is the latest Western country to bar government officials from attending the Games in response to China's human rights violations

A visitor walks past the logos for the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing
The US diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Games is gaining supportImage: Ng Han Guan/AP/picture alliance

Canada on Wednesday joined a growing list of countries refusing to send government officials to the Beijing Winter Olympics.

"We are extremely concerned by the repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said adding: "They should not be surprised we will not be sending any diplomatic representation."

The US, UK and Australia already have all said they won't send official delegations to the Games in response to China's human rights violations against Uyghurs.

"On issues like this it is important to make sure that we are working with our allies, are aligned with our allies," Trudeau said.

The diplomatic moves will not affect their athletes' ability to compete in the Games.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly speaks about a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in the rear Sport Minister Pascale St-Onge looks on
Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly says more countries need to join the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics.Image: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press/AP Photo/picture alliance

IOC warns politicization could threaten the Olympics

"We are concerned about the athletes,"  International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said, adding "The rest of it is politics."

Speaking after an IOC executive committee meeting on Wednesday, Bach warned 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.

"This would be the politicization of the Olympic Games and this, I would think it further, could be the end of the Olympic Games as it was for the ancient Olympic Games." 

Sporting boycotts 'not sensible'

Earlier on Wednesday UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told lawmakers he did not think that: "sporting boycotts are sensible and that remains the policy of the government."

He said British athletes will be allowed to compete in the Games but government officials will stay home. 

"There will be effectively a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, no ministers are expected to attend and no officials," Johnson said.

Australia also barring government officials from the Games

Also on Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that government officials from his country would not attend the Winter Olympics, joining the US in a diplomatic boycott of the premier global sporting event.

Morrison said China had not addressed concerns raised by the Australian government on several fronts, including over human rights abuses.

"Australia will not step back from the strong position we've had standing up for Australia's interests," Morrison told reporters in Sydney. 

"It is not surprising, therefore, that Australian government officials would not be going to China" for the Olympic Games, he said. 

Tense times for China ties

In announcing the boycott, Morrison said the decision was due to difficulties in reopening diplomatic channels to Beijing, human rights abuses in Xinjiang human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Beijing's moves against Australian imports.

Australian leaders have been confined to the use of diplomatic channels as Chinese officials refuse to directly discuss sensitive topics of concern.

Morrison's decision to have the country join the US in a boycott of the Beijing Olympics has the potential to further strain Australian-Chinese relations. China is Australia's largest trading partner.

Relations are similarly strained between China and the UK, due in particular to Beijing tightening its grip on Hong Kong, a former British colony, as well as Chinese criticism of how the BBC covered Taiwanese athletes at the recent Summer Olympics in Tokyo. 

China: 'Nobody cares' if Australian officials attend Games

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Australia was "blindly following" the US in announcing a diplomatic boycott, adding "whether they come or not, nobody cares."

Chinese officials added that the decision did not chime with past Australian statements that Canberra hoped for an improvement in relations.

"Australia's decision not to send officials to the Beijing Winter Olympics runs counter to its public statements of so-called hopes that China-Australia relations could improve," said a statement issued by the Chinese Embassy in the Australian capital.

Relations took a downturn in 2018 when Canberra blocked Huawei from the country's 5G broadband network.

Relations took another hit after Australia called for an independent investigation into the origin of COVID-19.

In response, Beijing imposed tariffs on several Australian coal, beef, barley and wine.

ar,es,lo/sms (AFP, Reuters)