Prime minister Boris Johnson today said he would consider calls for a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, but told MPs he is “instinctively against” taking such action.
At prime minister’s questions today, former Tory minister Tim Loughton highlighted concerns over the “genocide” of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and the wider human rights record of Xi Jinping’s Chinese government.
He asked: “Will the Prime Minister support our motion, to be debated in this House next Thursday, calling for a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics—incredibly awarded to Beijing—until and unless this dangerous regime abides by basic international standards of decency?”
Johnson replied: “This country has led the world in condemning human rights abuses in Xinjiang and in putting sanctions on those responsible, in holding companies to account that import goods made with forced labour in Xinjiang.
“I will certainly consider the proposal debated but I must say I’m instinctively, and always have been, against sporting boycotts.”
It has been estimated that 1m Uighur Muslims are being held in internment camps in the northern Chinese province of Xinjiang.
Evidence has also been uncovered of forced sterilisations of Uighur women, with birth rates falling by as much as 60 per cent in some Muslim majority areas.
In March this year, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said of China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims: “This is one of the worst human rights crises of our time and I believe the evidence is clear, as it is sobering.
“In terms of scale, it is the largest mass detention of an ethnic or religious group since the Second World War, and I believe one thing is clear: the international community cannot simply look the other way.”
At that time, the UK government sanctioned four senior Chinese officials it said were complicit in the abuses in Xinjiang province. In turn, China sanctioned 10 UK organisations and individuals, including former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith.
More recently, MPs passed a motion in parliament at the end of April to declare that China is committing genocide. Beijing’s embassy in the UK said the vote was “cooked up” with the purpose of “discrediting and attacking China”. It denied it had committed genocide or crimes against humanity.