“I support the request that the UK government now act against the dictatorial brutal Chinese regime that is persecuting everybody from Christians to Tibetans and terrorising the Uighurs,” he said.
“Will they follow the suit of the Americans, the Australians and even the Lithuanians and please — I beg of him — give a lead to human rights and make a diplomatic boycott of the winter Olympic Games?”
Johnson then conceded, for the first time, that the government’s position was essentially the same as Australia’s.
“There will be effectively a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing,” he told Duncan Smith.
“No ministers are expected to attend, and no officials, but what I can tell the House is that I do not think that sporting boycotts are sensible, and that remains the policy of the government.”
Duncan Smith welcomed the concession and thanked his IPAC colleagues for campaigning for the boycott.
“I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement that the British government is finally imposing a full diplomatic boycott on UK ministers and officials from attending the Winter Olympics in China,” he said.
Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said: “One hopes that Prime Minister Johnson’s ambivalently conveyed decision about a diplomatic boycott is underpinned by the UK’s commitment to the essential next step: pursuing justice for Chinese authorities responsible for crimes against humanity.”
In addition to Britain, Australia, Canada, the US and Lithuania, New Zealand has also announced a diplomatic boycott.
André Gattolin, a French senator with President Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche party, said Europe had no excuses not to follow.
“As the atrocities continue in the Uighur region, Tibet and Hong Kong, it is unthinkable that our state leaders will condone these Games,” he said.
“Our government ministers must state clearly that they will not attend the Beijing Olympics.
“The US, UK and Australia have made the first move. There can be no excuse for Europe not to follow,” he said.
On Thursday (local time), however, French President Emmanuel Macron dismissed talk of his government joining the boycott, saying he preferred to work with the International Olympic Committee to protect athletes rather than engage in “symbolic” boycotts.
“We must not politicise [the Olympics],” Macron told a press conference. “As with all things on the international stage, I prefer to do things that have a useful effect.”
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