UK won't send ministers or officials to Winter Olympics in Beijing

Britain follows US and Australia in diplomatic boycotts over Beijing human rights

Signs for the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing, China, on December 8. Reuters
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said there will “effectively be a diplomatic boycott” of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, given that no UK ministers or officials will be attending.

Conservative former leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith urged him to ensure the UK followed the lead of the US by having a full diplomatic boycott of the Games in February.

Mr Johnson said the government had “no hesitation” in raising concerns over human rights with China.

“There will be effectively a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing," he told the House of Commons. “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.”

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.

Princess Anne, who is president of the British Olympic Association and a member of the International Olympic Committee, is meeting the IOC on Thursday to discuss times before the opening ceremony.

Anne will be considering the options for travelling to the IOC meetings and games, a source said.

Mr Duncan Smith welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement and said he hoped “many other countries will follow suit”.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was imposing a boycott because it is “the right thing to do”.

In Australia’s case, it was also political disputes with China that sparked the move, including the Aukus pact with the UK and US for nuclear-powered submarines.

Mr Morrison 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”.

Updated: December 08, 2021, 10:24 PM