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Boris Johnson is yet to decide whether there should be a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in response to China’s human rights record.
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg told MPs that “no tickets have been booked” for the games in February.
The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China claimed the statement amounted to confirmation of a UK Government boycott, but No 10 insisted no decision had been made.
#BREAKING: UK announces diplomatic boycott of #Beijing2022 Olympics.@Jacob_Rees_Mogg confirms "no tickets booked" for UK ministers in answer to #IPAC co-chair @MPIainDS.#IPAC has led calls for a diplomatic boycott of the Games in over 10 parliaments globally.#NoRightsNoShow pic.twitter.com/9Nu5WGMZSV
— Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (@ipacglobal) November 25, 2021
In the Commons, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “The Government have been very clear about the human rights abuses against the Uighurs, and about what has been going on in Hong Kong and the failure of the communist government of China to follow the joint declaration that was agreed in the 1980s.
“The whole issue of religious toleration – so not just the Uighurs, but what has happened in Tibet – is rightly raised very regularly in this House, and it is right that the communist government are reminded of their moral obligations.
“However, the UK Government have long had a policy of thinking that sporting boycotts do not work and that it is a matter for the International Olympic Committee to decide whether the athletes go.”
“As regards whether Government ministers would wish to go to the People’s Republic of China,” Mr Rees-Mogg said “no tickets have been booked”.
His comments were prompted by a question from former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a prominent critic of the Beijing government.
Sir Iain said: “Today’s announcement that Government ministers are not planning to attend the Beijing Winter Olympics, whilst welcome, isn’t as yet a clear public statement.
“The Games will take place while the Chinese government commits industrial-scale human rights abuses in the Uighur region, Tibet and sends near daily military incursions into Taiwan’s air space.
“Add to that their arrest of peaceful democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong and the list of human rights abuses is enormous.
“That is why the UK Government must now go one further and publicly confirm that no ministers, diplomats or other British officials will attend the games. We cannot lend any legitimacy to China’s despotic regime.”
A No 10 spokesman told reporters: “We have said that the Prime Minister’s long-standing view is that boycotts don’t work.
“Our position is the same: no decision has been made on Government representation at the games.”