China on Thursday dismissed the decision by Canada and the United Kingdom to join Washington’s diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games as a “farce.”
China is also not concerned that the officials' absence would spark a chain reaction, and numerous heads of state, government leaders and members of royal families have registered to attend, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing.
The three countries have said they won’t send government dignitaries to the games, which run Feb. 4-20, to protest human rights abuses in China, while New Zealand said it informed Beijing earlier that it wouldn’t be sending any officials due to pandemic travel restrictions but had also communicated its human rights concerns.
Under the diplomatic boycott, the countries will still send their athletes to compete.
Wang said China had not extended invitations to the U.S., Canada or the U.K. and that it “doesn’t matter if their officials come or not, they will see the success of the Beijing Winter Olympics."
“Sports has nothing to do with politics," Wang said. “It is they who have written, directed and performed this farce."
China is confident there will be no chain reaction, and perceives overwhelming global support for the games, he said.
“As of now, numerous heads of state, leaders of government and royal family members have registered to attend the Beijing Winter Olympics, and we welcome them," Wang said. “China is committed to making greater contributions to the international Olympic cause and will offer up a streamlined, safe and exciting Olympics to the world."
China has vowed to respond to the U.S. with “firm countermeasures” over the boycott, but has given no details on how it plans to retaliate.
Rights groups have called for a total boycott of the Beijing Winter Games, citing Chinese human rights abuses against its Uyghur minority in the northwest Xinjiang region, which some have called genocide. They also point to Beijing’s suppression of democratic protests in Hong Kong and a sweeping crackdown on dissent in the semi-autonomous territory.
Canada's move came as little surprise in the context of the sharp deterioration in bilateral ties since China arrested two Canadians in December 2018, shortly after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer and the daughter of the company’s founder, on a U.S. extradition request.
Canada and others condemned what they called “hostage politics,” while China described the charges against Huawei and Meng as a politically motivated attempt to hold back China’s economic and technological development.
China, the U.S. and Canada completed what was essentially a high-stakes prisoner swap earlier this year, but the Chinese government's reputation has been severely tarnished in Canada.
One global VIP who will be attending the winter Olympics is United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The U.N. chief received an invitation from the International Olympic Committee to attend the Beijing Winter Games “and he has accepted it,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday.
Earlier, French president Emmanuel Macron said he does not support a diplomatic boycott of the Games, but could reconsider after talks with other European countries.
“We should not politicize” the Games by taking “small and symbolic” steps, Macron said. He added that he will seek opinions from other European Union states and the IOC and then announce a common decision “in the next weeks.”
Along with the boycott controversy, the pandemic has dictated that promotional events for the games be relatively low key, particularly when compared to the frenzied campaign launched ahead of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.
China that year staged a global torch relay that sparked violent confrontations along the route between opponents of the ruling Communists and the party's supporters. The relay has been canceled entirely this year.
At Beijing University of Posts and Communications, senior student Hu Xinran expressed a note of disappointment after waiting in line for 40 minutes to have her picture taken with a somewhat diminished Olympic flame.
“When I heard the flame was coming to our college, I was expecting it to be on the torch," Hu said. “But today I only saw a small flame in a lantern."
“I think the torch relay like that for Beijing 2008 was much more interesting. In my opinion, that was more fun.”