Japanese government officials will miss the Beijing Olympics
Japan’s Sakutaro Kobayashi competes in the Gundersen 10km individual test event on normal hill ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan will not send government officials to the Beijing Olympics in February, Tokyo said on Friday, calling on China to respect human rights and the rule of law.
Government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno did not describe the decision as a diplomatic boycott – already announced by the United States and others – but said there were “no plans” for the officials attend the Games.
“Japan considers it important that common values shared by the international community such as freedom, human rights and the rule of law are also upheld in China,” he said.
“As Tokyo 2020 has demonstrated to the world, the Olympic and Paralympic Games are festivals of peace and sport that give courage to the world.”
The United States, Britain, Australia and Canada this month announced diplomatic boycotts of the Games over what they see as China’s widespread rights abuses, including against the minority Uyghur Muslim.
Their boycott ends before they fail to send any athletes to the Winter Games, which start on February 4.
But Beijing has warned that the four nations will “pay the price” for the US-led campaign.
Japan, which this year hosted the virus-postponed Tokyo Olympics, is in a tricky position as tensions simmer between the United States and China – two key trading partners.
Matsuno said the decision was made after “thorough” consideration, noting that Japan had held discussions with the Chinese side on human rights issues “at different levels”.
– ‘Respect for the athletes’ –
Tokyo 2020 chief Seiko Hashimoto and Japanese Olympic Committee chief Yasuhiro Yamashita will compete in the Winter Olympics in the Chinese capital, Matsuno said.
Japanese Paralympic Committee chief Kazuyuki Mori will compete in the Paralympic Winter Games in March, he added.
“Hashimoto will be there to express his gratitude and respect to the athletes and others who supported the Tokyo Games,” Matsuno said.
Washington said its diplomatic boycott decision was prompted by rights abuses including what it called the “genocide” of the Uyghur minority.
However, not all of the American allies followed suit. Last week, South Korea ruled out joining the boycott, citing the need to work with China.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres is also expected to attend the Games, as are senior French officials.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said this month he remained politically neutral on the issue, insisting the important point was “athlete participation”.
Foreign fans will be banned from the Winter Games under anti-virus rules and the event will take place after several crackdowns – including in Hong Kong – designed to consolidate President Xi Jinping’s power.
Activists say at least a million Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in “re-education camps” in the far western region of Xinjiang.
Beijing has championed the camps as vocational training centers aimed at reducing the appeal of Islamic extremism.