The UK’s foreign secretary has said it was “highly unlikely” he would go to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, and said there were great sensitivities around the situation in Xinjiang.
Boris Johnson’s government has resisted opposition calls for a political boycott of the event in China, but Dominic Raab suggested ministers could decide to reduce Britain’s political “representation”.
Asked by Sky News on Thursday if he would attend the Beijing games next year, Mr Raab said: “I doubt it.”
The foreign secretary added: “Of course, there are great sensitivities around Xinjiang and things like that. We’ll decide our level of representation at a political-diplomatic level in due course … It’s highly unlikely I would go.”
Last week, MPs made a non-binding vote in parliament calling on the government to stage a diplomatic boycott of next year’s winter games hosted by China.
Labour has called for ministers and members of the royal family to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics unless China allows UN investigators to examine alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang province.
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy wrote to Mr Raab earlier this month, arguing that a political response was needed to deny China a “PR coup” next year.
But the foreign secretary said on Thursday the government was reluctant to “over-politicise” the sporting event by announcing a political boycott.
Mr Raab said: “In general we’re mindful not to over-politicise the Olympics ... I think over-politicising what is a sporting event doesn’t have a lot of currency among other countries.”
He previously said it wanted to “separate sport from diplomacy and politics” but there may “come a point where that might not be possible”.
The Lib Dems have called for a sporting boycott of the Winter Olympics. Leader Sir Ed Davey urged the government to send a clear message about the “genocide happening in front of our eyes”.
But Mr Raab claimed the decision over a sporting boycott would lie with International Olympic Committee (IOC). “In this country questions like whether the athletes participate are decided as a matter of law independently by the IOC.”
In March the foreign secretary announced announced sanctions against four Chinese officials accused over atrocities committed against Uygher Muslims, in coordinated action with the EU and US.
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