British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says there will “effectively be a diplomatic boycott” of the Winter Olympics in Beijing given that no UK ministers or officials will be attending.
Conservative former leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith begged Mr Johnson to ensure Britain followed the lead of the US by having a full diplomatic boycott of the Games in February.
Mr Johnson said the government had “no hesitation” in raising concerns over human rights abuses with China, adding in the Commons: “There will be effectively a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
“No ministers are expected to attend and no officials. What I can tell the House is I don’t think sporting boycotts are sensible and that remains the policy of the government.”
The US and Australia have announced diplomatic boycotts over Beijing’s record on human rights, particularly the treatment of the Uighur Muslim community in Xinjiang province. They have been joined by Canada and New Zealand.
The Princess Royal, who is president of the British Olympic Association and a member of the International Olympic Committee, will meet the IOC on Thursday (British time) to discuss timings ahead of the opening ceremony.
Princess Anne will consider the options for travelling to the IOC meetings and games, a source said.
Sir Iain welcomed Mr Johnson’s announcement and said he hoped “many other countries will follow suit”.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a boycott on Wednesday, saying it was “the right thing to do”.
In Australia’s case, it was not only human rights concerns but also a series of political disputes with China that triggered the move – including the AUKUS pact with Britain and US over nuclear-powered submarines.
Mr Morrison said his government was very happy to talk to China about their differences “but the Chinese government has consistently not accepted those opportunities for us to meet”.
China responded to Australia’s decision with an incendiary blast for the US’s “No.1 lackey” through state-owned media.