January 16, 2022
The Netherlands will not send diplomatic representatives to the Beijing Winter Olympics because Covid curbs will prevent talks with Chinese officials on human rights, the Dutch foreign ministry said Friday.
But officials insisted that the move, which ministers decided on at a meeting on Friday, was not a political boycott of the sort already announced by the United States, Canada, Australia and Britain.
"We think that the severe Covid measures will make it difficult to have meetings in China and a substantive programme of biliteral meetings with the host country," Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman Frits Kemperman told AFP:
"In these meetings we could talk about the worries on the human rights situation, as the Netherlands sees it, on a meaningful level with the authorities. So this is why the government concludes that we will not send an official delegation."
Dutch athletes will still attend, with speed skaters Sven Kramer and Ireen Wust heading to Beijing to defend their Olympic titles.
Dutch King Willem-Alexander had already decided not to attend because the Covid measures would prevent Dutch fans coming to the Olympics, Kemperman said. The Netherlands similarly declined to send officials to the Tokyo 2021 summer games because of Covid restrictions, he added.
A Dutch government source said it was "not a political boycott" and that there had been discussions with other EU countries that had also decided not to send an official delegation. Denmark announced a similar move earlier Friday.
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."
By AFP - Agence France Presse dk/pb