China snub: Britain could BOYCOTT Winter Olympics over tensions with ‘intolerant’ China

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Disagreements over the global pandemic, Hong Kong relations and Huawei may see members of the Royal Family and ministers shun the event. A similar situation occurred at the 2018 World Cup in Russia that took place two months after the infamous Novichok gas attack in Salisbury.

A senior minister told The Sun: “Awkward conversations are having to be had about it.”

However, a formal decision is yet to be taken, a Government source insisted Tuesday.

Ex-Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith called on the Government to put pressure on the International Olympic Committee to change the setting.

He said: “China is dictatorial, aggressive and intolerant.

“I don’t see how any self-respecting British citizen could go there to endorse this regime.

“From the torture and sterilisation of Uighur Muslims, to the smashing of the Sino-British agreement over Hong Kong.”

Alan Mendoza, of foreign policy think-tank The Henry Jackson Society, added: “Until China starts playing by the rules, the only salute we should be giving them is a two-fingered one.”

Other international voices calling for a boycott on the 2022 Winter Olympics include US senator Marco Rubio.

Mr Rubio said in 2018 that China should lose the right to host the event because of the “dire human rights situation” in Xinjiang.

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Another senator, Rick Scott, proposed a bipartisan bill in March calling for a change of host unless “significant improvements” are made in human rights by January 2021.

On Friday, the International Olympic Committee’s president Thomas Bach voiced his opposition against boycotts, claiming they only harmed athletes.

He later denied that he was referring specifically to Beijing 2022 and said he was confident China would uphold human rights.

George Magnus, research associate at Oxford University’s China Centre, said the 2022 Games are “indeed looming as a potential flashpoint”.

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He added: “If the medal tables at the Winter Olympics 2018 in South Korea are anything to go by, China would definitely suffer if the top nations didn’t show up.”

At the 2018 Winter Olympics, Norway, Germany, Canada, the US, the Netherlands and Sweden won more than half the gold medals.

Mr Magnus said: “All of the leading nations have strained relations with China already, notably Canada, the US and Sweden.

“The problem is that in times like these, countries have growing recourse to sanctions to express displeasure with or retaliate against the actions of China, and vice versa.

“Whether they would boycott the Games is a moot point, but since they know China will showcase them as it did the Summer Olympics in 2008 and as all nations do, the temptation to downplay or boycott will be strong.”

But according to Jules Boykoff, a politics professor at Pacific University in Oregon, the outcome of a US-led boycott would depend on who wins the upcoming presidential election.

Mr Boykoff said: “In the US, there have been bipartisan calls to boycott Beijing 2022, but it must be noted that such claims sit on a pretty firm foundation of hypocrisy, especially in this moment as activists standing up for black lives across the US are being repressed by local, state, and federal policing forces – ironically, this is happening as they protest police brutality.

“Were the US to try to rally a boycott movement, it’s not even clear they’d be able to muster a strong coalition, given the ever-plummeting status of the country’s reputation under the Trump administration.”

Sourabh Gupta, a senior fellow at the Institute for China-America Studies in Washington, said: “Under a Biden presidency, I would rate the chances of a boycott of the Games as remote, which under Trump, boycott is a possibility but still something of a long shot.”

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