Britain, Australia, and the US will pay the price for their “mistaken acts”, after deciding not to send government delegations to February’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, China’s foreign ministry has said.
It comes after the countries announced diplomatic boycotts over human rights concerns.
However, France on Thursday said it will not be boycotting the Games, with education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer telling BFM TV: “As for a diplomatic boycott… France will not do it… Sports is a world in itself, which must be protected from political interference, otherwise… we can end up by killing the competition.”
He said any violations of human rights in China must be condemned, but added that France’s sports minister Roxana Maracineanu would attend the event.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Thursday: “The United States, Britain and Australia have used the Olympics platform for political manipulation.
“They will have to pay the price for their mistaken acts.”
When pressed on the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Boris Johnson said no diplomats were set to go to the Games and there would be an “effective” boycott.
However, he added: “I do not think that sporting boycotts are sensible, and that remains the policy of the government.”
The countries that have announced boycotts are still allowing their athletes to compete.
Why are countries staging boycotts?
China’s response follows Australia and Britain joining the US after it decided to hold back its diplomats and officials from the Olympics due to “egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang”.
On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives passed legislation to ban imports from the region over concerns about forced labour.
China has repeatedly denied human rights abuses against the Uyghur population, but there have been claims of torture and deaths inside the notorious re-education centres.
Confirming Australia’s diplomatic boycott just days after the US announcement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison raised strained diplomatic relations with Beijing.
He said Australia had struggled to reopen diplomatic channels with China to discuss alleged human rights abuses in the far western region of Xinjiang, and Beijing’s moves against Australian imports.
Mr Wenbin accused Australia of “blindly following” the US, adding: “Whether they come or not, nobody cares.”
Might other countries follow?
The case of tennis player Peng Shuai, who made sexual assault claims against a former senior Chinese official, has brought added focus to the country’s record on human rights. Her whereabouts has become a matter of international concern.
German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock said on Thursday that Europe needed to find a common response on the issue of a diplomatic boycott of the Games.
“When a woman raises such a reproach, it needs to be heard in an international context. We need to pursue the case and come to a common answer,” she said, during an official visit to Paris.
A Canadian foreign affairs spokesperson has said the country is discussing the matter “with our closest partners”, while New Zealand said it was not sending diplomats for COVID reasons.
The Winter Olympics will be held in and around Beijing and locations in neighbouring Hebei province from 4 to 20 February 2022.
Paris is due to host the summer Games in 2024.