EU to consider diplomatic boycott of China’s Winter Olympics

Group of TDs, Senators write to Taoiseach urging him to say he will not accept invitation

An outdoor screen shows the slogan for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, which reads ‘Together for a Shared Future’, in Beijing, on Wednesday.  Photograph: Jade Gao/AFP/Getty

An outdoor screen shows the slogan for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, which reads ‘Together for a Shared Future’, in Beijing, on Wednesday. Photograph: Jade Gao/AFP/Getty

 

EU member states are expected to discuss the possibility of joining a diplomatic boycott of next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing because of China’s human rights record.

On Wednesday, the UK announced a diplomatic boycott, though this will not affect athletes, while the US, Australia and New Zealand have previously said they will not send any government officials to the games.

France said it would seek to co-ordinate EU action. “We take note of the decision of the Americans. When we have concerns on human rights, we say so to the Chinese, we took sanctions on Xinjiang last March. We will co-ordinate at European level,” the French presidency said in a statement.

Ireland will not send any Ministers to the games, the Department of Sport has said, though it pointed out that it would not be typical for politicians to go. Minister for Sport Jack Chambers has previously indicated that he will not attend.

On Wednesday night, a cross-party group of TDs and Senators wrote to Taoiseach Micheál Martin urging him to affirm publicly that he would not accept an invitation to attend the games, which, they said, “would take place amid industrial-scale human rights abuses in China and Hong Kong”.

A Government spokesman said: “In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was decided by the Department of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Gaeltacht, Sports and Media that there would be no representation from that Department at this year’s Tokyo Olympics, nor at the Beijing Winter Olympics next year.

“It has not been customary for Ministers or Minsters of State to attend the Winter Olympics generally. The decision on whether to participate in an international sporting event lies solely with the athletes and sporting body involved. The Department of Foreign Affairs, through the Embassy of Ireland in Beijing, will provide consular assistance to the athletes and their teams.”

‘Propaganda purposes’

Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne, who has urged the Government to support a boycott, said that the “Chinese Communist Party will use the Beijing Games for propaganda purposes”.

“Our Government should not be represented at an event organised by an increasingly authoritarian regime that clearly has no respect for human rights. As Australia, New Zealand, Britain and the United States along with many European countries have already declared that they will diplomatically boycott the Games, I don’t know why the Department of Foreign Affairs has been so slow to respond,” he said.

“The athletes should not be disadvantaged but our Ambassador should not attend the Games.”

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