LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday no U.K. government minister will attend the Beijing Winter Olympics, calling it “effectively” a diplomatic boycott.
Johnson was asked in the House of Commons whether the U.K. will join the United States, Australia and Lithuania in a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games in February over Beijing's human rights record.
He said he opposed boycotts involving athletes, but Britain would effectively be boycotting the Olympics diplomatically.
“There will be effectively a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing," Johnson told lawmakers. “No ministers are expected to attend and no officials."
’The government has no hesitation in raising these issues with China, as I did with President Xi the last time I talked to him," he added.
The White House confirmed Monday that it was staging a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing to protest Chinese human rights abuses. China has vowed to react with “firm countermeasures.”
Australia announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Games earlier Wednesday. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was “in Australia's national interest,” and referred to the worsening relations between his country and China — including a spat over Australia's decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines — as well as human rights concerns.
Western governments, including the U.S., Australia and Britain, have increasingly criticized Beijing for human rights abuses against its Uyghur minority in the northwest Xinjiang province, which some have called genocide. They have also spoken out against Beijing's suppression of democratic protests in Hong Kong. Rights groups have called for a full-blown boycott of the Beijing Winter Games.
It wasn't immediately clear whether Britain's royal family could still attend the 2022 Games. Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth II's daughter, was an Olympic equestrian and is president of the British Olympic Association.