‘No hesitation!’ UK Ministers and officials to boycott Winter Olympic Games in China

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No ministers or officials will attend the Games, which begin in February. UK athletes will still be allowed to compete. It follows similar moves by the US and Australia to take a stand against China. Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith had demanded even tougher action to make a statement over Chinese communist brutality against Christian and Muslim minority groups, and against the Tibetan people.

But the Prime Minister stopped short of a full sporting boycott – saying such a move is not “sensible”. Mr Johnson said the Government has “no hesitation” in raising concerns over human rights abuses by China, adding in the Commons: “There will be effectively a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. No ministers are expected to attend and no officials. What I can tell the House is I don’t think sporting boycotts are sensible and that remains the policy of the Government.”

Both the US and Australia have announced diplomatic boycotts over Beijing’s record on human rights, particularly the treatment of the Uighur Muslim community in Xinjiang province. Mr Johnson’s comments leave open the prospect that members of the Royal Family could still attend.

The Princess Royal is president of the British Olympic Association and a member of the International Olympic Committee.

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Sir Iain welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement and said he hoped “many other countries will follow suit”. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was announcing a boycott as it was “the right thing to do”.

In Australia’s case, it was not only human rights concerns but also a series of political disputes with China which triggered the move – including the Aukus pact with the UK and US over nuclear-powered submarines.

He said his government was happy to talk to China about their differences “but the Chinese government has consistently not accepted those opportunities for us to meet”.

Other countries, including Canada and Japan, are said to be considering diplomatic boycotts of the Games. New Zealand has confirmed it will not send officials due to Covid concerns.

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