However, he said that British athletes will attend the meeting, which begins on February 4, stressing that the United Kingdom “does not support a sports boycott.” He stressed that, however, none of his ministers intend to attend.
There are many sources of tension between London and Beijing, from the human rights situation in Xinjiang – the cradle of the Muslim Uyghur minority in the northwest of the country – and the decline of freedoms in the former British colony of Hong Kong. And the exclusion of the Chinese giant Huawei from the British 5G telecommunications network. Johnson assured MPs that he regularly raises the issue of human rights before representatives of the Chinese government, at the heart of the decision of Western countries.
Beijing did not immediately respond to the British announcement, but expressed anger and disdain at the US decision when Australian authorities later joined in.
The Australian government joined the initiative two days later from Washington, citing a series of disagreements between it and Beijing and the human rights situation in the communist country.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “Australia will not deviate from a strong position in defending Australia’s interests and it is clearly no surprise that we are not sending Australian representatives to these Games.”
In response to a question during a press conference, a spokesperson for Chinese diplomacy, Wang Wenbin, confirmed that his country had never intended to invite the Australian authorities.
“No one cares whether they come or not,” he said. “His political maneuvers and little tricks will not change anything for the success of the Olympic Games,” he added.
Australia, like the United Kingdom, is seeking legislation against foreign influence to veto Huawei from 5G contracts and has called for an independent investigation into the origin of the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition, it recently signed a major military alliance with the US and UK to supply US nuclear powered submarines.
As in the British case, the diplomatic boycott does not prevent the participation of US or Australian athletes.
Hours after the UK and Australia did so, Canada also joined the “diplomatic boycott”.
“We are deeply concerned about the human rights abuses of the Chinese government,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a press conference announcing that his country is joining the diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games.
The president stressed that the measure would not prevent Canadian athletes from participating in the Games, which will begin on February 4, but would mean that no government representative travel to China. An anti-China approach,” Trudeau stressed.
Relations between Canada and China experienced moments of tension and the two countries just emerged from an unprecedented diplomatic crisis related to the arrest of the daughter of the founder of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei in December 2018. The Chinese authorities responded to this situation with retaliatory measures.
However, the US decision sparked outrage in Beijing. “The United States will pay for its tricks,” Chinese diplomatic spokesman Zhao Lijian said.
Human Rights Watch’s China director, Sophie Richardson, celebrated the diplomatic boycott, calling it “a decisive step in challenging the Chinese government’s crimes against humanity against Uighurs and other Turkish communities.”
Activists say at least a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been imprisoned in camps in Xinjiang, where Beijing is also accused of imposing forced labor and sterilization.
For his part, Zhao Lijian dismissed Western accusations about the situation in Xinjiang, calling them “the lie of the century.”
Meanwhile, the Australian Olympic Committee stressed that its priority was to ensure a “safe trip to China due to the complexity of Covid” and a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Australia indicated that athletes from that country would be welcome at the Games. Wishing them an “excellent performance”.
“Australia’s success in the Beijing Winter Olympics depends on the performance of the athletes, not on the presence of Australian representatives,” he added.
For its part, the Chinese government deplored the positions taken by many Western governments, which mainly affect the curtailment of rights and freedoms in the Asian giant and cases such as those in Xinjiang, where the United States considers that genocide is being committed. against the Uyghur population.
At the European level, only Lithuania took the step, while other EU governments such as French or German called for coordination. The most difficult role is for Italy, as it will host the next Winter Olympics, scheduled for 2026.