France will not join ‘insignificant’ boycott of Beijing Olympics, says Macron

France will not join a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday, calling such a move “insignificant”. Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, meanwhile, said Paris was still seeking a common EU stance on the issue. 

A visitor to the Shougang Park walks past the a sculpture for the Beijing Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021.
A visitor to the Shougang Park walks past the a sculpture for the Beijing Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. © Ng Han Guan, AP

“To be clear: You either have a complete boycott, and not send athletes, or you try to change things with useful actions,” Macron said at a news conference  Thursday, adding that he was “in favour of action that has a useful outcome”. 

The US, Australia and Britain are among several Western nations that have said they will not send officials to the 2022 Winter Olympics in order to send China a message over its human rights record. The decision however stopped short of preventing athletes from attending the Beijing games. 

Questioning the utility of the diplomatic boycott, Macron noted that he “didn’t hear anybody in the world say: Let’s not send our athletes. So we’re talking about something rather symbolic,” he said. 

France would instead work with the International Olympic Committee on a charter guaranteeing the protection of athletes “given what has happened over recent weeks”, Macron said in an apparent reference to the case of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who disappeared for three weeks after she made sexual assault accusations on social media against a former top Communist Party politician. 

Announcing France’s decision earlier Thursday, French Education and Sports Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer warned against politicising the issue. 

“We need to be careful about the link between sports and politics,” Blanquer told RMC radio and BFM television. 

“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,” he said. 

Blanquer said France would carry on condemning human rights violations in China. 

He will not travel to the Chinese capital, but junior sports minister Roxana Maracineanu will represent the French government.

Seeking common EU stance

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, meanwhile, said he was still seeking a common EU stance on the issue when asked about a possible boycott during a press conference at around the same time. 

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

Advocacy groups have backed the US-led 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 Uyghurs and other Turkic communities.” 


But a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday said the UN chief will attend the Beijing games. 

“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. 

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

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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