SYDNEY (AFP) – Even as more and more Western countries join the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022, new chancellor Olaf Schultz (SPD) has shown himself reluctant to answer that question.
“The Olympic Games are also always a contribution to global coexistence,” Schultz said after being elected as a consultant to TV station Welt. “We will make decisions when the time comes.” The new government is talking to many others.
It’s a “diplomatic boycott”
After the USA, Canada, Great Britain and Australia also announced similar steps. “Canada remains deeply disturbed by reports of human rights abuses in China,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote on Twitter. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in Parliament in London that this was a “de facto diplomatic boycott”. “As I said before, we do not support a sports boycott. There are no plans for Cabinet members to attend the Winter Olympics,” Johnson said.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had made a similar statement earlier in Sydney. He added that this decision “did not come as a surprise to him.” He cited a number of misunderstandings between Canberra and Beijing as the reason, including China’s criticism of Australia’s decision to buy nuclear-powered submarines. His government once again denounced “human rights abuses in Xinjiang and other issues,” but the Chinese government has not shown any willingness to speak out. Morrison stressed that Australian athletes – like British athletes – should take part in the Games in Beijing.
IOC President Thomas Bach said that “the presence of government officials is a purely political decision of any government. The principle of political neutrality of the IOC also applies to this decision.”
Barbs from Beijing
China responded with strong criticism of Down Under’s decision. “The Australian government is blindly following some countries, so they can’t distinguish between right and wrong,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in Beijing. Australia violated the principle of political neutrality in the Olympic Charter. Wang Wenbin said Australia’s reasoning “in the so-called human rights issue in Xinjiang is just an excuse to discredit China,” adding that “China had no plans to invite any Australian officials to the Games. Nobody cares whether they come or not.”
After US pressure, European politician Nicolas Beer (FDP) has spoken out in favor of a complete boycott of the Winter Games. The EU vice-president said the EU should “not just stay on the US slope, but stand on its own two feet to respect human rights and speak out in favor of a complete boycott of the Winter Games”. Presentation of Parliament to “Funk Medingroup” (Wednesday).
The FDP politician said the diplomatic boycott demanded by the United States comes too late, and is “the least that can be expected” of the West. The Winter Olympics in China in February 2022 is considered a “wrong stage in the wrong place”. Beer said clear signals from the West toward Beijing were long overdue, referring to the “brutal suppression of the Uyghurs, and Chinese aggression against Hong Kong and Taiwan.”
Steinmeier had no travel plans
Christian Democratic Union presidential candidate Frederick Merz also calls for such a step from the European Union. The European Union must make that decision, too. “This will allow athletes to participate in the Olympics, but the system in Beijing will be largely politically isolated,” the politician told the T Online news portal. The diplomatic boycott of the Games is valid due to the ongoing human rights violations in China.
The new traffic light government made up of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Free Democratic Party has so far left open the matter as to whether they will join the boycott. SPD general secretary Lars Klingbeil spoke out against it. “No, that’s something I find very skeptical about boycotting the Olympics,” Klingbeil told radio station FFN. In his view, major sporting events are always “an opportunity to signal important social developments in a targeted way”.
Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will not travel to the Winter Games. A spokeswoman for the federal president of ARD Sportschau said: “The federal president has no plans to travel to Beijing.” These plans did not exist until the United States announced its decision.
On December 6, the United States announced a diplomatic boycott of the Games in Beijing (February 4 to 22, 2022) in protest of human rights abuses in China. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Biden administration will not send diplomatic or official representatives to Beijing.
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