No 10 considers ministerial boycott of 2022 Beijing Olympics

·3 min read
Activists rally in front of the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles, California on November 3, 2021, calling for a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics - Frederic J. Brown/AFP
Activists rally in front of the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles, California on November 3, 2021, calling for a boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics - Frederic J. Brown/AFP

Britain is considering approving a limited Government attendance at the Beijing Olympics that would stop short of a full-on diplomatic boycott, The Telegraph understands.

An outright ban on ministerial and diplomatic representation at the Winter Games still remains a possibility, however, as options are weighed up in Whitehall.

On Tuesday, Australia became the latest country to announce it would boycott the games, following a similar announcement by the United States earlier this week.

The White House said that no American officials will travel to the sporting event, which begins on February 4 and will last 18 days.

New Zealand and Lithuania are among other countries that have also announced their refusal to deploy ministers to the Games, although their athletes will still participate. Canada has yet to decide.

International campaigners have urged nations to stage a diplomatic boycott in protest at China’s violation of human rights, including the ongoing persecution of the Muslim Uighur minority.

 People walk past a statue with the Olympic Rings titled "Dating With the Winter Olympics" by Huang Jian, near the headquarters of the Beijing Organizing Committee in Shougang Park, one of the sites for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, in Beijing on December 7, 2021. - Noel Celis/AFP
People walk past a statue with the Olympic Rings titled "Dating With the Winter Olympics" by Huang Jian, near the headquarters of the Beijing Organizing Committee in Shougang Park, one of the sites for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, in Beijing on December 7, 2021. - Noel Celis/AFP

Downing Street insisted on Tuesday that no final call had been made about UK diplomatic representation at the Games, despite the event being less than two months away.

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman told reporters: “A decision has not been made on HMG [Her Majesty’s Government’s] attendance at the Beijing Olympics. We will set our position in due course.”

It is understood that one option under consideration is for ministers to swerve the Games, but for Caroline Wilson, the UK Ambassador to China, to attend.

An outright diplomatic boycott is supported in other quarters of Government and heavily backed by China hawks in Parliament.

The Commons backed the proposal during a vote this summer, and Tory MPs who have been sanctioned by the Chinese Communist Party have heaped pressure on Boris Johnson to take a tough line on the Games.

Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Dominic Raab arrives for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 07 December 2021. Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London - Shutterstock
Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Dominic Raab arrives for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, 07 December 2021. Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London - Shutterstock

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said this week that “categorically I will not be attending” and did not rule out a full diplomatic boycott. It is thought that Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will not attend either.

On Tuesday cross-party parliamentarians in the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (Ipac) wrote to the Prime Minister and to Ms Truss calling for a full diplomatic boycott.

Italy, which is set to host the next Winter Games in 2026, has said it will not follow Washington’s example by staging a diplomatic boycott, while France and Germany have so far been noncommittal.

Chinese officials have hit back against Joe Biden’s planned boycott, branding it “political posturing and manipulation” and claiming US officials had not been invited to attend in the first place.

The International Olympic Committee has said the Games should be treated as “politically neutral ground” and argued that the sporting event “cannot address all the challenges in our world”.

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