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The Beijing absentee list will be the most significant shunning of an Olympics since the 1980s

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(, Jan29’22) – Democratic government and other world leaders attending the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics on Feb 4 will be sharing stage with the who’s who of authoritarian leaders, noted Jan 29, citing the event’s guest list released Jan 28 by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Some of the latter don’t even have athletes competing in the Games. Many democratic governments are shunning the event in protest against China’s refusal to end its genocidal practices against its so-called ethnic minorities, especially in Xinjiang, and other forms of gross and systemic human rights abuses.

The list of 32 is led by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is attending as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s personal guest, even though his country is technically banned from the Games for four years. Russia cannot compete as a country in international sporting events until Dec 16, 2022 after it was caught running a state-sponsored doping programme designed to boost its medal haul at international sporting events.

The United States, Canada and most of the 27 European Union countries, followed by Canada, Great Britain and Australia have already announced their diplomatic boycott of the Games’ opening ceremony. There are also other countries that are not sending any diplomatic representation to the Opening Ceremony while refraining from describing their absence as a diplomatic boycott. These include many European countries, Japan, and India, while New Zealand also cited the Covid-19 pandemic as the reason for its diplomatic absence from the event.

The absentee list will represent the most significant shunning of an Olympics since the 1980s, when the US led a full-fledged boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games, and the Soviet Union responded with a retaliatory boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Games, the report noted.

Putin’s name is followed by King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia; the names of the presidents of Singapore, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Egypt; the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia; the Amir of Qatar; and the Crown Prince of UAE.

Rights group Freedom House, which “rates people’s access to political rights and civil liberties in 210 countries and territories” around the world, has given China a score of just 9 on a 100-point scale in its most recently released survey.

And the scores of three of the 11 countries listed above are worse while their median score is 17. Only Singapore is considered “partly free.” The rest are “not free,” the report noted.

Also present will be President Xi Jinping, the International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said China’s official Jan 28.

“Such large scale of foreign leaders to the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics – an unprecedented offline gathering of top leaders since the pandemic – underscore China’s capacity of unifying others amid challenging time, which also signals the widely shared support and expectations of the global community for the Games and completely defies the trivial voices of the US-led Western clique in calling for a ‘diplomatic boycott of the Games’,” the report complained, citing “experts”.

Ding Xiaoxing, director of the Eurasia Institute of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, has underlined the political importance of the attendance of the 32 visiting dignitaries, saying it “shows that the international society recognizes and supports China’s foreign policy and multilateralism.”

“Some leaders will attend the Beijing Olympics even though their countries have no athletes to the Winter Games as they know the importance of the Games and they are showing support to the sports spirit,” Su Xiaohui, deputy director of the Department for International and Strategic Studies of China Institute of International Studies, has said.

Expressing bitter anger against those boycotting the Opening Ceremony, she has said, “These countries’ sincerity contrasts with a few countries’ wretched actions.”


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