Beijing Winter Olympics boycott is insignificant, says Macron

Emmanuel Macron at news conference to mark France's EU presidency
Mr Macron said he preferred what he described as useful actions

France has no plans to join a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, President Emmanuel Macron has said.

Mr Macron said any such move would be insignificant and merely symbolic.

The US, UK, Canada and Australia have said they will not send government representatives to the February games because of concerns over China’s human rights record.

This includes allegations of abuse against Uyghurs and other minorities.

Relations are also strained over a crackdown on political freedoms in Hong Kong and concerns about Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who was not seen for weeks after she accused a top government official of sexual assault.

China says countries that boycott the games “will pay the price for their mistaken acts”.

Meanwhile United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he had accepted an invitation to attend the opening of the games.

At an extended news conference on Thursday, Mr Macron said the Olympics should not be politicised, and that he preferred actions which had a “useful effect”.

“To be clear: You either have a complete boycott, and don’t send athletes, or you try to change things with useful actions,” he said.

The president added that France would work with the International Olympic Committee on a charter to protect athletes, in a veiled reference to Peng Shuai.

“I don’t think we should politicise these topics, especially if it’s to take steps that are insignificant and symbolic,” he said.

In a wide-ranging conversation with reporters, Mr Macron also touched on the following. He said he wanted the European Union to focus on defence and border protection, as well as reform of the Schengen agreement on free movement – France takes over the six-month rotating presidency of the EU in January

He said the EU should rethink its budget rules to encourage investment as the world emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic

The UK government has failed to keep its word on Brexit, he said, but there has been progress in talks in recent weeks

Britain’s role in pushing for the Aukus security pact with the US and Australia, which prompted Australia to cancel a submarine contract with France, “was not the most obvious sign of friendship”.

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