Canada announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics over human rights concerns

Prime minister Justin Trudeau has announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Prime minister Justin Trudeau has announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics. (Getty)

The Canadian government has joined the United States, United Kingdom and other nations in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement on Wednesday, adding that the decision stems from human rights concerns.

"We are extremely concerned by the repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government," said Trudeau. "That is why we are announcing today that we will not be sending any diplomatic representation to the Beijing Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games this winter."

According to the Prime Minister, the Canadian government has been in communication with partners and allies about the Beijing Olympics — slated to begin on Feb. 4 — in relation to concerns over human rights abuse by the Chinese government.

In addition to the United States and the U.K., Australia and Lithuania have also announced they will not send diplomats to Beijing in February. Nations have cited, among other concerns, reports of Muslim Uyghur genocides in the Chinese province of Xinjiang and the well-being of tennis player Peng Shuai, who went missing for several days after accusing a former Chinese government official of sexual assault.

Canada's relations with China are also checkered after two Canadians were detained in China for nearly three years and finally released in September amid diplomatic tension.

Trudeau added that athletes still have the country's support to compete in Beijing despite the diplomatic boycott.

"Our athletes have been training for years, are looking forward to compete at the highest level against athletes from around the world," said Trudeau. "And they will continue to have all of our fullest support as they show the extraordinary success that Canada has at Winter Olympic Games."

The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee released a statement shortly after Canada's announcement of a diplomatic boycott.

“The Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee remain concerned about the issues in China but understand the Games will create an important platform to draw attention to them," reads the statement. "History has shown that athlete boycotts only hurt athletes without creating meaningful change. We also know the importance of Team Canada to Canadians, and we are committed to ensuring they can participate safely at the Games."

Canada had its best-ever Olympic performance in the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, with 11 gold medals and 29 total.

Much of the sports buzz this year revolves around the NHL's potential return to the Winter Games — which right now seems tentative. NBA centre and outspoken activist Enes Freedom has urged Canadian stars such as Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby to implement an Olympic boycott of their own this winter.

"All the gold medals you can win in the world are not more important than your values, your principles," Freedom said in an interview with CBC. "And I feel like we need to stand up for what's right."

Freedom has spoken against China on several occasions.

"They should not go ... I understand these athletes are working so hard to get to that level. But sometimes there are bigger things than sports, there are bigger things than basketball or hockey."

Players and the NHL have not commented on the status of their participation at the Beijing Games.

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