Over the coming weeks we will be cheering on Team GB’s athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which are of course taking place in 2021 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This means that there is an unusually short amount of time between the Summer Games and the next Winter Olympics, which take place in Beijing in February of next year.
Crawley residents have contacted me on many occasions in recent years about the serious human rights abuses committed by the Chinese Communist Party against the Uyghur people in Xinjiang, and towards freedoms in Hong Kong.
Hosting the Olympics provides potential for a propaganda coup for a regime as authoritarian as China’s. If these Games are to take place in Beijing then British athletes will compete and have the support of our country, but we must take steps to ensure that the Chinese government does not receive any such endorsement from Britain.
The UK Government should suggest to the British Olympic Association that its participation in opening and closing ceremonies is limited to one representative carrying the Union Flag. Government should abstain from sending officials to any ceremonies or functions, and strongly discourage British businesses from sponsoring or advertising at the Games.
These are just some of the findings of the UK Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee’s recent inquiry on Uyghurs and other ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang who are suffering genocide and crimes against humanity, and how Britain can take action to bring these crimes to an end.
Through my work as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee I have asked our expert witnesses about the UK’s relationship with China, including how Britain can use its future economic relationship with China to promote better human rights practices, and I have pressed the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office on this very issue.
There is, of course, a precedent for free nations to take such a stand. The hosting of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, was criticised globally due to the passing of anti-LGBT laws. Countries including our own undertook a partial diplomatic boycott, with leaders including then-Prime Minister David Cameron staying away.
Earlier this year I spoke in the Commons about how the UK must not be afraid to challenge those in the world who do us and the global community harm. The Chinese Communist Party is committing atrocities in Xinjiang, stifling free speech in Hong Kong, and repressing more than one billion of its own citizens.
A diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics is just one way we can tell the Chinese government that their actions are unacceptable. In front of a worldwide audience of hundreds of millions, we can remind the world of Britain’s commitment to freedom and human rights.
Henry Smith MP