China not worried about any ‘domino effect’ of Olympic boycotts

The boycott had stopped short of not sending athletes but nonetheless infuriated Beijing. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China is not worried about a "domino effect" of diplomatic boycotts of the Beijing Winter Olympics, it said on Thursday (Dec 9), after Australia, Britain and Canada joined the United States in deciding not to send officials to the Games.

The US was the first to announce a boycott, saying on Monday its government officials would not attend the Feb 4-20 Games because of China's human rights "atrocities" in the western region of Xinjiang.

"I don't see any need to be worried about any domino effect," foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a daily news conference, when asked about the possibility of more boycotts.

"On the contrary, most countries in the world have expressed support for the Beijing Winter Olympics."

The diplomatic boycotts by the US and its allies come after a sharp deterioration in relations between Beijing and Washington that began under former US President Donald Trump.

The Biden administration has maintained pressure on China over various issues including human rights and China's maritime claims in the South China Sea.

Mr Wang pointed out that the United Nations on Dec 2 adopted a resolution, co-sponsored by more than 170 of 193 member states, for an "Olympic Truce", calling upon states to rise above politics and unite in sports during the Beijing Games.

"Quite a few" foreign leaders and members of royal families had registered to attend, he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is the only leader of a major country who has publicly accepted an invitation.

Mr Wang said that China had no plans to invite officials from Britain and Canada to the Games anyway, and that their absence would have no impact on the success of the Games.

Mr Wang also said the US and its allies would "pay the price for their mistaken acts" and they had "used the Olympics platform for political manipulation".

China said on Tuesday it will "resolutely take countermeasures" against the US for its boycott but has not specified what they would be.

'Stop wrongdoing'

Australia's Prime Minister, Mr Scott Morrison, said earlier that its decision not to send officials was made because of its struggles to reopen diplomatic channels with China to discuss human rights in Xinjiang and China's moves to block Australian imports.

China has denied any wrongdoing in Xinjiang, home to the Uighur Muslim minority, and said allegations of right abuses were fabricated.

On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives passed legislation to ban imports from Xinjiang over concern about forced labour, one of three measures backed overwhelmingly as Washington pushes back against Beijing's treatment of the Uighur community.

"China firmly opposes this," said Mr Gao Feng, a spokesman at the Chinese commerce ministry, referring to the US action.

"The United States should immediately stop its wrongdoing. We will take necessary measures to resolutely safeguard China's legitimate rights and interests," Mr Gao told a regular news conference.

The US was practising unilateralism, protectionism and bullying China in the name of "human rights", he said.

The US stand would seriously hurt the interests of the companies and consumers of the two countries, aggravate global supply chain tension and weigh on the global economic recovery, Mr Gao warned.

The House backed the "Uighur Forced Labor Prevention Act" by an overwhelming 428-1. To become law, it must also pass the Senate and be signed by President Joe Biden.

New Zealand has not said it is diplomatically boycotting the Games but when asked if he would support a boycott, Trade Minister Damien O'Connor said it was "something we need to do as a nation" and the country had been "strong and independent" on human rights and should "continue to do that".

Responding to Mr O'Connor's remarks, Mr Wang said he hoped all countries could be more united in the Olympic spirit and keep politics out of sports.

France will not follow the lead of other Western governments and boycott the Olympics but any human rights abuses in China must be condemned, its education minister said on Tuesday.

The French foreign minister also said Paris should take a common stand with other European Union countries on any diplomatic boycott.

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