United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will attend the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, his spokesman said on Thursday, after the United States announced a diplomatic boycott and several other Western nations followed suit.
“The secretary-general received an invitation from the International Olympic Committee to attend the opening of the Beijing Winter Games and he has accepted it,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.
The US said its athletes would still compete, but that it would not send a diplomatic delegation in a protest against rights abuses by China.
The move nonetheless infuriated Beijing, which hinted at retaliation on Thursday.
“The US, Australia, Britain and Canada’s use of the Olympic platform for political manipulation is unpopular and self-isolating, and they will inevitably pay the price for their wrongdoing,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters.
France for its part said it has no plans to join the boycott, President Emmanuel Macron announced on Thursday, calling such a move “insignificant”.
Advocacy groups have backed the US-led boycott effort, with Human Rights Watch’s China director Sophie Richardson calling it a “crucial step toward challenging the Chinese government’s crimes against humanity targeting Uighurs and other Turkic communities”.
Campaigners say that at least one million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim minorities have been detained in “re-education camps” in Xinjiang, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour.
On Thursday, an unofficial and independent UK-based tribunal ruled that the Chinese government has committed genocide, crimes against humanity and torture against Uighurs and other minorities in its western province of Xinjiang.
Beijing has defended the camps as vocational training centres aimed at reducing the appeal of “Islamic extremism”.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said on Wednesday that he was staying politically neutral on the matter, while insisting the important point was “the participation of the athletes in the Olympic Games”.