Boris Johnson’s ministers and members of the royal family should boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing unless China allows UN investigators to examine alleged human rights abuses, Labour has said.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab and culture secretary Oliver Dowden have been urged to announce a political boycott if Beijing refuses to allow a thorough investigation into alleged atrocities in Xinjiang province.
Beijing has strongly denied international claims about the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, despite reports indicating that more than a million people have been arbitrarily detained.
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy and shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens have written to their counterparts arguing a political response is needed to deny China a “PR coup” next year.
“We cannot possibly roll out the red carpet and participate in what would be a major PR coup for the Chinese government,” Ms Nandy told Sky News. “We should use this moment to say to the Chinse authorities, ‘Open up access to Xinjiang [and] allow UN inspectors in’.”
In the open letter to ministers, the Labour MPs wrote: “We are now calling on you to use the occasion of the games to press the case for unfettered UN access to Xinjiang to conduct a full, transparent and independent investigation.
“If this is not granted, the UK government should not send ministers, royal family members or senior representatives to participate in any official duties or ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics.”
In February, the Liberal Democrats called for a sporting boycott of the Winter Olympics. Leader Sir Ed Davey urged Mr Johnson to send a clear message about the “genocide happening in front of our eyes”.
But the prime minister rejected calls for a sporting boycott, and the British Olympic Association (BOA) said it “fully supported” No 10’s position.
Labour stopped short of calling for a sporting boycott – arguing that that would not be fair on Team GB competitors who have trained for four years for the chance to take part, or on the Chinese people who are not responsible for the situation.
The party said a political boycott should be triggered if China has not granted inspectors access to Xinjiang by 14 September – the opening of the UN General Assembly session in New York.
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy (Getty)
Ms Nandy said: “The UK parliament recently took the unprecedented step of recognising what is happening to the Uyghur is genocide. After a decade of Tory prime ministers rolling out the red carpet to Beijing, this must be the turning point.”
A spokesperson for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said no decisions have been made about UK government attendance at the Beijing games in 2022.
“The government has been vocal in calling out the egregious human rights abuses being committed against the Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang, most recently at the UN Human Rights Council alongside more than 40 countries.”