Japan is considering not sending any Government Ministers to the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, according to reports.
Kyodo News and the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported the nation – which hosted the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics and is eyeing a bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics – was considering the move due to China’s human rights record.
Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States have all confirmed plans for a diplomatic boycott of Beijing 2022, set to open on February 4.
The US said it had made the decision in response to “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses.”
According to Kyodo, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will decide on the Government’s plans before the end of the year.
Japan is considering explaining that its stance to send representatives, but not Ministers, is not a diplomatic boycott.
The nation is trying to strike a balance in dealing with the US, its key security ally, and China, its largest trading partner, Kyodo reported.
As with the other five countries, Japanese athletes will not be affected and will still be able to compete at the Games.
Kyodo reported Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee President Seiko Hashimoto or Japanese Olympic Committee head and International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Yasuhiro Yamashita will be the country’s main representatives at Beijing 2022.
China, which has warned countries diplomatically boycotting the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games will “pay the price” for their “mistaken acts”, has urged Japan to support the Games after it gave its full backing to Tokyo 2020.
France, which will welcome the Games to its capital Paris in 2024, has confirmed it will not diplomatically boycott Beijing 2022.
Criticism over China’s record on human rights includes an alleged genocide against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang and its actions in Tibet and Hong Kong have overshadowed much of the build-up to the Games.
China has been accused of crimes including using forced Uyghur labour, operating a mass surveillance programme, detaining thousands in internment camps, carrying out forced sterilisations and intentionally destroying Uyghur heritage.
Beijing has denied the allegations, claiming the camps are training centres designed to stamp out Islamist extremism and separatism.
IOC President Thomas Bach has insisted the organisation must remain politically neutral otherwise the Olympics would “end”.
In a statement following yesterday’s Olympic Summit, a gathering of leaders within the Movement, the IOC said: “The Summit stands firmly against any politicisation of the Olympic Games and sport, and strongly emphasised the need for the political neutrality of the IOC, the Olympic Games and the entire Olympic Movement.”