France not to join diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics

By: AFP      Published: 03:15 PM, 9 Dec, 2021
France not to join diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics
File photo.

France will not join a diplomatic boycott by other Western countries of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing, Education and Sports Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said Thursday.

Asked about a boycott announced by the United States, Australia, Britain and Canada, Blanquer told RMC radio and BFM television that France "won't do it". 

"We need to be careful about the link between sports and politics," Blanquer said during the interview. 

"Sports is a world apart that needs to be protected from political interference. If not, things can get out of control and it could end up killing all of the competitions."

French President Emmanuel Macron has sought to avoid entering into open confrontation with China and has spoken about the risk of conflict as relations sour between Washington and Beijing.

He was also left furious with the United States, Britain and Australia in September after they signed a new security deal called AUKUS that led Australia to abandon its purchase of French submarines.

Blanquer said that he would not travel to the Chinese capital, but junior sports minister Roxana Maracineanu will represent the French government.

The decision was not confirmed by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, however, who said he was still seeking a common EU stance on a possible boycott during a press conference at around the same time as Blanquer spoke. 

"When it comes to the issue of the diplomatic boycott, this question will be dealt with at the European level," he told journalists. 

China warned Western nations on Thursday they would "pay the price" for a diplomatic boycott.

Washington announced its boycott earlier in the week, saying it was prompted by widespread rights abuses by China and what it sees as a "genocide" against the Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.

"We need to condemn human rights violations in China because there are some and they need to be condemned," Blanquer added. "When it comes to sporting competitions, we need to have the right and appropriate response."

The EU-China relationship has been rocky this year, with both sides exchanging tit-for-tat sanctions over the treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority in China.

Former German chancellor Angela Merkel always encouraged close ties with China during her 16 years in office, but she was succeeded by Olaf Scholz on Wednesday who is set to visit Paris on Friday and hold a joint press conference with Macron.

AFP

Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.