Japan on Friday said that it would not send
any government official or ministers to the Beijing Winter Olympics in February.
The Japanese government, however, refused to call its decision a diplomatic
boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
While announcing the decision, Chief
Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said Japan “believes that respect for
human rights is important”. “We made a decision
comprehensively,” he added.
Though any government official will not
attend the Beijing Winter Olympics, starting February 4, Tokyo Olympics Chief
Seiko Hashimoto, Japanese Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita, and
Japan Paralympic Chief Kazuyuki Mori will still attend the event, Matsuno said.
Earlier this month, Japanese Prime Minister
Fumio Kishida said he does not plan to attend the Games. Kishida was facing
pressure within his ruling party to take a tougher stance on China, according
to local media. Japan is a close partner of the United States but also has
strong economic ties to its Asian neighbour.
The Beijing Winter Olympics have been
riddled with controversies for months, with activists and critics calling for
boycotts over concerns of human rights abuses in China, particularly against
predominantly Muslim Uyghurs in the western region of Xinjiang province.
A number of foreign governments, lawmakers,
independent tribunals, and humanitarian groups have declared China’s treatment
of Uyghurs a genocide.
So far, Britain, Canada, Australia and New
Zealand have followed the US in announcing diplomatic boycotts, meaning they
will not send any official delegation, though their athletes will still
compete. The US said its boycott was due to China’s “egregious human
rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang.”
China has strongly criticized the boycotts,
arguing politics and sports should remain separate, and that participating
countries are contradicting the Olympic spirit of unity. In a statement earlier
this month, Beijing threatened the Biden administration with retaliation,
warning the move could harm bilateral relations.
France, meanwhile, ruled out boycotting the
Games and criticised the diplomatic boycott calling out that sports and
politics should not mingle. France is the host of the 2024 Paris Olympics.