China has on Thursday condemned calls for the British government to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics on the grounds of human rights violations against the Uyghur Muslim minority in the Chinese Xinjiang province.
China Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin called the demands to snub the games “politicisation of sports” and warned on Thursday that a boycott “will not succeed,” the Associated Press has reported.
The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee issued a report on Wednesday urging the UK government to partially boycott the Olympic Games “by not participating in the opening or closing ceremonies; strongly discouraging UK businesses from sponsoring or advertising at the Olympics; encouraging fans and tourists to stay away.”
The Beijing Games are set to open on 4 February 2022, just six months after the postponed Summer Olympics in Tokyo are due to end.
Labour MPs also this week called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government “to use the occasion of the Games to press the case for unfettered UN access to Xinjiang to conduct a full, transparent and independent investigation.”
“The UK government should not send ministers, royal family members or senior representatives to participate in any official duties or ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics”, if the UN is still unable to conduct an on-the-ground investigation in Xinjiang by the time the UN General Assembly’s 76th session opens, the MPs said.
In April, the House of Commons issued a motion declaring that the Uyghur and other ethnic and religious minorities in the Chinese Northwestern province are subjected to genocide. China staunchly denies all accusations of overseeing genocide against the Uyghurs or any other minority in Xinjiang.
But Mr Johnson has always been adamant that genocide accusations are for courts to determine, resisting repeated calls from MPs to consider joining the Biden administration’s effort to rally allies for a possible boycott.
Under mounting congressional pressure, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month that the US is trying to forge a “common approach” with allies for a possible united move to boycott the games, to which China reiterated the standard accusations that this was politicising sport.
The British government has on multiple occasions condemned Beijing, calling for the United Nations to be allowed “urgent and unfettered” access to investigates widespread allegations of forced labour, torture in detention camps and forced sterilisation of women belonging to the largely Turkic languages speaking Uyghurs. However, Mr Johnson’s government resisted calls to boycott the games.
China has denied the United Nations free access to the region to investigate the claims.
The debate on rebuffing the games has increased in recent months. China observers say the participation of western democratic countries, like the UK and the US, might play a part in boosting the ruling Chinese Communist Party legitimacy at home and abroad.
China has lavishly celebrated the 100 years anniversary of the CCP on 1 July. In his speech on the historic occasion, President Xi Jinping, brimming with confidence, warned that foreign powers will “get their heads bashed” if they attempt to bully his country.
On Thursday, Wang repeated his country’s position by saying: “China firmly opposes the politicisation of sports and the interference in other countries internal affairs by using human rights issues as a pretext”. “Attempts to disrupt, obstruct and sabotage the preparation and convening of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games out of political motivation have been met with strong opposition from all sectors of the international community,” he added
Analysts argue that fears of international isolation by virtue of the possible boycott grip the Chinese leadership ahead of a historic party conference next year, which is expected to further consolidate President Xi’s hold on power.