Czech political leaders consider diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics

Photo: N509FZ, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Next year’s Winter Olympics are slated to take place in February in Beijing, China. This is the second time that the Chinese capital has hosted the Olympics. However, unlike 12 years ago, the country now faces increased international scrutiny for its poor human rights record, which includes the severe persecution of its Uyghur minority which some parliaments in Western countries have called genocide.

In response to such policies, the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia have announced a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Beijing Olympics, meaning that while athletes from their countries will participate, the government officials will not. In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin accused these countries of using the Olympic Games platform to “Political manipulation” and warned that they “Will pay the price for their wrongdoing”.

Petr Fiala |  Photo: Michaela Danelová, Czech Radio

Several other countries are also considering withdrawing their participation. This includes the Czech Republic. Prime Minister-designate Petr Fiala said last week that he understands why the United States has chosen to boycott the upcoming Winter Olympics and that he expects his future government to collectively decide to do so as well. . The statement came after two members of his governing coalition, including the candidate for Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský of the Pirate Party, proposed that the Czech Republic abstain from the Games.

Lipavský’s colleague and Czech MEP Markéta Gregorová told Czech radio that she would also be in favor of boycotting the Beijing Olympics.

Markéta Gregorová |  Photo: Czech Pirate Party / Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

“I think it would be appropriate for the Czech Republic to join this diplomatic boycott. The reasons are the same as those provided by other boycott countries – breaking human rights laws. “

This point of view is also shared by the presidents of the two chambers of the Czech Parliament. Outgoing Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has said he understands why some countries have chosen to boycott the games. He said last week that the issue will be on the table at this week’s European Council meeting and that the European Union should choose a common approach.

The union’s main voice against a boycott is France, with its president, Emmanuel Macron, telling reporters that only a partial diplomatic boycott would be ineffective.

Kateřina Konečná |  Photo: Geneviève Engel, European Parliament

Some Czech politicians also oppose this decision. Among them is the MEP and President of the Communist Party Kateřina Konečná.

“I think if there is anything that has a real chance of helping to build membership in [international] the law, the discussion and the debate, then it is precisely diplomacy in the fields of sport and culture. These are not boycotts, sanctions, intimidation or ultimatums. “

EU leaders are also expected to debate the issue at their last summit of the year on Thursday. However, Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told Reuters he was skeptical of a final decision taken this week.

Berta D. Wells