China warns UK, US and Australia will 'pay' for Olympic boycott

China warns UK, US and Australia will ‘pay the price’ for boycotting Winter Olympics

  • China warned states were using the Olympic platform for ‘political manipulation’
  • Foreign ministry spokesman said they would ‘pay the price for their wrongdoing’
  • US announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Olympics in Beijing on Monday  
  • UK, Australia, Canada followed suit in flurry of diplomatic bonhomie Wednesday 
  • But France said it will not boycott the Games because ‘sports is a world in itself’

China has warned the UK, US, Canada and Australia they will ‘pay the price’ for a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

Washington announced its boycott earlier in the week, saying it was prompted by widespread rights abuses by China and what it sees as a ‘genocide’ against the Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang. 

The UK, Australia and Canada followed suit in a flurry of diplomatic bonhomie on Wednesday. The boycott stopped short of not sending athletes but nonetheless infuriated Beijing, which hinted at retaliation on Thursday.

‘The US, Australia, Britain and Canada’s use of the Olympic platform for political manipulation is unpopular and self-isolating, and they will inevitably pay the price for their wrongdoing,’ foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters.

The veiled threat came as France said it would not boycott the February Games because ‘sports is a world in itself, which must be protected from political interference.’

The Kremlin, however, criticised the US move, saying the 2022 games should be ‘free of politics’. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already accepted an invitation by Chinese leader Xi Jinping to attend. 

Meanwhile International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said on Wednesday that he was staying politically neutral on the matter, while insisting the important point was ‘the participation of the athletes in the Olympic Games’. 

China has warned the UK, US, Canada and Australia they will ‘pay the price’ for a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics (pictured, the Games’ logo at Shougang Park in Beijing)

Washington announced its boycott earlier in the week, saying it was prompted by widespread rights abuses by Beijing (pictured, China’s President Xi Jinping)  and what it sees as a ‘genocide’ against the Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang

Advocacy groups have backed the boycott, with Human Rights Watch’s China director Sophie Richardson calling it a ‘crucial step toward challenging the Chinese government’s crimes against humanity targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic communities’.

Campaigners say that at least one million Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in ‘re-education camps’ in Xinjiang, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour. 

China has denied any wrongdoing in Xinjiang, home to the Uyghur Muslim minority, said allegations of right abuses were fabricated and defended the camps as vocational training centres aimed at reducing the appeal of Islamic extremism.

All four of the boycotting Western countries have seen relations with Beijing cool dramatically in recent years. 

Relations between Beijing and Washington deteriorated sharply under former US President Donald Trump and the Biden administration has maintained pressure on China.

Disagreements have centered on various issues including trade, the origins of the coronavirus and China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea. 

Britain has criticised China for its crackdown in Hong Kong. And it angered Beijing last year by blocking Chinese tech giant Huawei’s involvement in its 5G broadband rollout, after Washington raised spying concerns.

Canada’s relations with China meanwhile hit a low over the December 2018 arrest in Vancouver on a US warrant of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, and Beijing’s detention of two Canadian nationals in response. All three were released and repatriated in September.

Tibetan activists stand in front of the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, to call for states to boycott the February winter Games

A perimeter fence around what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre in Dabancheng in Xinjiang in China’s far west region. Activists say Muslims are being detained against their will

Under the boycott, the Biden administration will not send any US diplomatic or official governmental representatives to the Games.

Olympic hosts have traditionally basked in the global attention, which often includes visits by foreign leaders or officials.

US President George W. Bush, for example, cheered on Team USA during the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.

But allegations that China had subjected Muslim minorities in its Xinjiang region to mass detention, forced labour, and other abuses make it politically untenable for a US official to be seen in the stands in Beijing in February.

The boycott should ease domestic US pressure on Biden to send China a message, while not penalising American athletes or completely shattering already brittle China-US relations.

So its a snub, but with far less sting than the full boycott advocated by some prominent US lawmakers and rights groups, which would bar participation by athletes, coaches and team officials.

Canberra’s ties with Beijing have also been in freefall in recent years, with China introducing a raft of punitive sanctions on Australian goods.

China has been angered at Australia’s willingness to legislate against overseas influence operations, its barring of Huawei from 5G contracts, and its call for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

Australia’s recent move to equip its navy with nuclear-powered submarines under a new defence pact with Britain and the United States – widely seen as an attempt to counter Chinese influence in the Pacific region – further angered Beijing.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said earlier that the decision was made because of its struggles to reopen diplomatic channels with China to discuss human rights in the far western region of Xinjiang and China’s moves to block Australian imports. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Britain’s boycott in parliament on Wednesday but joined the other three nations in saying athletes should still attend.

‘I do not think that sporting boycotts are sensible – that remains the policy of the government,’ he added.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canadian officials too would skip the Games, saying his government is ‘extremely concerned by the repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government’.

Australia’s leader Scott Morrison made a similar announcement earlier in the day, sparking an outcry from Chinese state media the Global Times which branded Canberra the ‘No. 1 US lackey.’ 

France had said it would seek to be part of a coordinated EU response but later said it would not boycott the Games. 

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said violations of human rights in China must be condemned but that Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu would still attend the Beijing Olympics next year.

Other countries are weighing their own moves. 

Communist Party backed outlet The Global Times tweeted this image of a kangaroo holding a balloon bearing the US flag with the caption: ‘No. 1 US lackey’

On Tuesday, Chinese state media mocked Biden over the boycott, saying the President was ‘not invited’ to the Games. 

China Daily editor Chen Weihu ridiculed Biden’s age, tweeting: ‘You’re not invited and not welcome, Mr Biden. Hope you will live long enough to see China boycotting Los Angeles Summer Games in 2028.’ 

Meanwhile Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times, accused the US of being Covid-ridden despite the virus originating in China.

He wrote: ‘Only super narcissistic people will regard their absence as a powerful boycott. 

‘Most of those US govt officials are close contacts of the COVID-19 patients according to China’s standard, moreover picky and pretentious. You are the people that Beijing residents least want to see.’ 

On Tuesday, Chinese state media mocked Joe Biden (pictured on December 6) over the boycott, saying the President was ‘not invited’ to the Games 

And in another twist 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 Uyghur community.

‘China firmly opposes this,’ said 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,’ Gao told a regular news conference.

The United States was practicing 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, Gao warned.

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

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