United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has accepted the invitation to attend the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, despite diplomatic boycotts by several Western nations of the games in protest of the Chinese regime’s ongoing human rights violations in Xinjiang.
“The secretary-general received an invitation from the International Olympic Committee to attend the opening of the Beijing Winter Games, and he has accepted it,” spokesman Stephanie Dujarric told reporters on Thursday.
“I mean, as you know, I think his two immediate predecessors have attended almost every Olympic Game since at least 2002,” Dujarric added.
This is despite the United States, along with several other Western nations, having announced diplomatic boycotts of the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, citing the Chinese regime’s “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the athletes on Team USA would still compete in the Games, but that it would not send an official delegation.
“U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply can’t do that,” Psaki told a daily press briefing on Dec. 6.
In response, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China would take “resolute countermeasures” against the United States over the boycott effort, without being specific on the countermeasures.
Australia joined the United States in the boycott effort, citing human rights concerns in China and its disputes with Beijing—particularly on the foreign interference legislation for foreign investment, and Australia’s AUKUS security pact with the UK and the United States over nuclear-powered submarines.
“Australia will not step back from the strong position we’ve had standing up for Australia’s interests and consistent with that position, then obviously it is no surprise that we wouldn’t be sending Australian officials to those games,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Dec. 8.
The UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said no ministers would attend the games as there will be “effectively a diplomatic boycott” of the Beijing Winter Olympics, but he maintained that the government doesn’t support sporting boycotts.
Lithuania, Canada, and New Zealand also said they won’t send officials to the games, with New Zealand citing COVID-19 as the main reason.
However, Wang said on Thursday that China wasn’t concerned about the diplomatic boycott, given that “quite a few” foreign leaders and members of royal families had registered to attend the games. China had no intention of inviting Canada and the UK, he said, adding that their absence would have no effect on the outcome of the games.
Lily Zhou contributed to this report.