Japan announced on Friday that it will not send government officials to the Beijing Olympics in February, urging China to uphold human rights and the rule of law.
Hirokazu Matsuno, government spokesman, did not call the action a diplomatic boycott, as the US and others had done, but said there were “no intentions” for officials to attend the Games.
“Japan believes it is critical that the international community’s shared values of freedom, human rights, and the rule of law are also upheld in China,” he said.
“The Olympics and Paralympics are celebrations of peace and sports that offer the globe courage, as Tokyo 2020 demonstrated to the world.”
The United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada launched diplomatic boycotts of the Games earlier this month, citing China’s chronic human rights violations, notably against the Muslim Uyghur minority.
Their boycott does not include athletes competing in the Winter Games, which begin on February 4th. Beijing, on the other hand, has warned that the four countries will “pay the price” for the US-led campaign.
Japan, which hosted the postponed Tokyo Olympics this year due to a virus, is in a precarious situation as tensions between the US and China, two of its most important trading partners, rise.
Matsuno said Friday’s decision was made after “comprehensive” discussion, adding that Japan has had “many” meetings with the Chinese side on human rights problems.
Seiko Hashimoto, the president of Tokyo 2020, and Yasuhiro Yamashita, the president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, will attend the event in Beijing.
“Hashimoto will be there to express gratitude and respect to the athletes and everyone who helped make the Tokyo Games a success,” Matsuno added.
Kazuyuki Mori, the president of the Japan Paralympic Committee, has confirmed that he will attend the Winter Paralympics in March.
Zhao Lijian, spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, said the government “welcomes the Japanese Olympic Committee and other relevant officials, as well as Japanese athletes,” but expressed reservations about the decision.
He said, “China… urges the Japanese side to keep their agreements to help each other in hosting the Olympic Games and to avoid politicising sports.”
The United States’ diplomatic boycott was sparked by human rights violations, like as the “genocide” of the Uyghur minority, according to Washington.
However, not all US allies have followed suit. Last Monday, South Korea said it would not join the boycott because it needed to engage with China.
Senior French officials, as well as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, are expected to attend the Games.
President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, stated earlier this month that he would remain politically neutral on the issue, maintaining that the most essential factor was “athlete participation.”
Under current regulations, foreign fans will be barred from the Winter Games, which will take place following a series of crackdowns, particularly in Hong Kong, aimed at securing President Xi Jinping’s control.
At least one million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been imprisoned in “re-education centres” in China’s far western Xinjiang province, according to campaigners.
The camps have been justified by Beijing as vocational training centres aimed at diminishing Islamic extremism’s attractiveness.