New Zealand will not be represented at the Winter Olympics on a ministerial level next year in China, Sports Minister Grant Robertson says.
However, the move was not due to US’ diplomatic boycott, but from a previous decision made over Covid concerns.
The deputy prime minister was questioned about New Zealand’s situation for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics after the US confirmed Tuesday they will stage a diplomatic boycott to protest Chinese human rights abuses.
Robertson said New Zealand will also be absent from the Games at a diplomatic level.
“We’ve already made clear that we won’t be there at a ministerial level,” Robertson said.
“We made that clear to China in October and so for us that is a decision we’d already made.”
Robertson emphasised the diplomatic decision was for a variety of issues with safety being a bigger focus than human rights.
“There was a range of factors but mostly to do with Covid and the fact that the logistics of travel and so on around Covid are not conducive to that kind of trip,” he said.
“But we’ve made clear to China on numerous occasions our concerns about human rights issues – as recently as the Prime Minister talking to President Xi.
“They’re well aware of our view on human rights but we’d already made that decision not to attend.”
The US said Tuesday morning they will offer their “full support” to US athletes competing in the Games next year but added “we will not be contributing to the fanfare”.
“US diplomatic or official representation would treat these Games as business as usual in the face of the PRC’s egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply can’t do that,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
“We have a fundamental commitment to promoting human rights. And we feel strongly in our position and we will continue to take actions to advance human rights in China and beyond,” Psaki added.
China has denied claims by human rights groups of alleged genocide and crimes against humanity reportedly taking place in the Xinjiang in the country’s northwest.
China officials called the claims the “lie of the century”, saying camps in northwestern China are for education, not arbitrary internment of a reported one million Uyghur Muslims and other religious and ethnic minorities.
The International Olympic Committee in a statement called the decision to keep dignitaries away from the game a “political decision for each government” that it “fully respects.”
“At the same time, this announcement also makes it clear that the Olympic Games and the participation of the athletes are beyond politics and we welcome this,” the IOC statement said.
– Additional reporting by the Associated Press.
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