Boycott of Olympics extends to diplomatic representatives of UK and Canada

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OTTAWA — The UK and Canada joined a growing diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics on Wednesday, citing concerns over China’s human rights record.

The United States said Monday it will not send government officials to the Games, which are set to begin in February, although athletes can still participate. The Biden administration had been pressured to boycott the Olympics for months, but those calls escalated after Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai disappeared from public view in November after making a public assault allegation sexual assault against a retired Chinese official.

Human rights groups and some governments have raised concerns about China’s massive detention of Uyghurs in the northwestern Xinjiang region and its efforts to quell criticism in Hong Kong.

Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom and Lithuania all said on Wednesday that they would refrain from sending diplomatic representatives to the sporting event. A spokesman for the Chinese foreign minister earlier this week called the US boycott a “naked political provocation” and an offense to 1.4 billion Chinese people.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he doesn’t think the decision to join the diplomatic boycott will come as a surprise to Chinese officials. “We are extremely concerned about the repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government,” Trudeau said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said earlier Wednesday that the decision not to send government officials to the Winter Games was “the right thing to do”, citing the discord between the two countries and the campaign of forced assimilation from China to Xinjiang.

New Zealand has also said it will not send government ministers to the Games. At the Wall Street Journal CEO Council summit on Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the move was made in October for reasons such as border restrictions and concerns over Covid-19.

Canada’s relations with China have been strained since the detention in December 2018 of two Canadian citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who were living in China at the time. Mr Trudeau previously said Chinese authorities detained the men in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Huawei Technologies Inc.’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of US authorities.

MM. Kovrig and Spavor were released and returned to Canada in September, hours after Ms Meng struck a deal with the US Department of Justice. Under the agreement, she admitted to doing wrongdoing in exchange for prosecutors postponing and then dropping charges of electronic and banking fraud.

The Chinese Embassy in Ottawa said in a statement on its website Wednesday evening that Mr. Trudeau’s allegations of human rights violations by the Chinese government were false and the human rights situation. man in the country is “at his best all time.” He said a handful of Western countries, including Canada, had tried to disrupt the Beijing Olympics because of their ideological biases.

“Canada must stop politicizing sport, stop disrupting and undermining the Beijing Winter Olympics immediately, lest it lead to self-inflicted humiliation,” the embassy statement said.

Diplomatic boycotts aim to send a message of disapproval while allowing athletes to participate in the Olympics. Campaigners have been calling for the Olympics to be canceled for over a year, targeting the International Olympic Committee, sponsors and Western governments.

Write to Kim Mackrael at [email protected]

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