Beijing Olympics: Japan will not send officials to Winter Games

Japan announced Friday that it will not send a senior government delegation to the Winter Olympics in Beijing next year, but refused to call the decision a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games.

What did the Japanese government say?

Japanese government spokesperson Hirokazu Matsuno said there were “no plans” for officials to attend the event.

“As Tokyo 2020 demonstrated to the world, the Olympics and the Paralympics are festivals of peace and sports that give courage to the world,” Matsuno said in a press conference explaining the decision. “Japan believes it is important that common values shared by the international community such as freedom, human rights and the rule of law are respected in China.”

At the same time, Matsuno did not describe the move as a diplomatic boycott: “We don’t use a particular term to describe how we attend.”

Seiko Hashimoto, who led the Organizing Committee for the Tokyo Games, and Japanese Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita will still attend the event in Beijing. Japanese Paralympic Committee chief Kazuyuki Mori will also travel to China for the Games.

Watch video 00:32 US announces diplomatic boycott of 2022 Olympics

Which countries are boycotting the Games?

The United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia have already announced a diplomatic boycott of the games over human rights considerations, particularly in regards to Beijing’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority and policies toward Hong Kong. Those countries will not send government delegations, but athletes will still attend.

Although Japan enjoys close ties with the US there are also practical considerations at play, as China is Tokyo’s largest global trading partner.

China has slammed countries which have announced plans to boycott the Games, saying they would “pay a price for their wrong moves.” Japan may be wary of economic repercussions from Beijing if it were to label the decision as a boycott.

Watch video 02:29 Rights groups call for boycott of Beijing Olympics

South Korea, another US ally in the Asia-Pacific region, has refused to take part in a boycott, with Seoul saying China’s “constructive efforts” are needed for denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula.

Germany has seemed hesitant to boycott the event, with Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock calling for a common European response on the issue. Other countries refusing to participate in the boycott include France and Russia.

The Winter Olympics in Beijing are expected to take place from February 4 to February 20. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic will have an impact on the event, with unvaccinated foreign athletes required to quarantine upon arrival.

wd/fb (AP, AFP, dpa)