TORONTO (AP) – Canada will join the United States, Britain and Australia in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics over human rights concerns, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.
The announcement comes after the White House, the Australian government and the UK government confirmed a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games in February to protest human rights abuses in China. China has promised to respond with “firm countermeasures.”
Trudeau said his government has been in talks with its allies in recent months.
“We are extremely concerned about the Chinese government’s repeated human rights violations,” Trudeau said.
“They shouldn’t be surprised that we won’t send any diplomatic missions.”
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Diplomatic moves by Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia do not affect the ability of their athletes to participate in the Games.
Rights groups have called for a full-scale boycott of the Beijing Winter Games, citing China’s human rights violations against the Uyghur minority in northwestern Xinjiang province, which some call genocide. They also point to Beijing’s crackdown on democratic protests in Hong Kong and widespread crackdown on dissent in the semi-autonomous territory.
On Monday, the White House confirmed it was pursuing a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming games, and Australia followed suit on Wednesday, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying it was “in Australia’s national interest.”
Relations between Canada and China have been bad since China arrested two Canadians in China in December 2018, shortly after Canada arrested Huawei Technologies’ CFO and founder Meng Wanzhou’s daughter at the US extradition request. Many countries called China’s actions “hostage policies,” while China described the accusations against Huawei and Meng as a politically motivated attempt to curb China’s economic and technological development.
Earlier this year, China, the United States and Canada effectively ended a high-stakes prisoner swap, but the Chinese government’s reputation in Canada has been severely damaged.
“The concern about arbitrary detention is real and shared by many countries around the world,” Trudeau said.
Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said other countries should take similar action.
“It’s important to send a strong message to China,” Jolie said. “Violations of human rights are unacceptable.”