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Roundup of newspaper editorials on diplomatic boycott of Olympic Games

  • December 15, 2021
  • , Sankei , p. 6
  • JMH Translation
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By Uchihata Tsubumasa


The Biden administration announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, saying it would not send a government delegation to China in protest of the country’s human rights abuses. While the Sankei Shimbun wholeheartedly supported the initiative, Asahi Shimbun and Mainichi Shimbun both expressed concern over a possible escalation of the confrontation between the U.S. and China.


In mid-November, the Washington Post reported that the U.S. government was “considering” a diplomatic boycott. The Sankei supported the move, writing in its editorial: “The Beijing Olympics must be prevented from becoming a glorification of the Xi administration, a regime that has no shame in violating human rights. A diplomatic boycott would show that Japan will not tolerate human rights violations and will stand by those being oppressed. This is the path that Japan must take as a nation that respects human rights.”


The cowardly nature of China’s human rights abuses is clear to everyone. The genocide and crimes against humanity in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the oppression of democracy in Hong Kong, and the disappearance of top tennis player Peng Shuai, who accused a former deputy prime minister of sexual abuse, all testify to it. The While House formally announced the U.S. diplomatic boycott on Dec. 6.


The Nikkei wrote: “China must take the international community’s criticism seriously and make efforts to improve the human rights situation in the country.” Yomiuri Shimbun wrote: “It seems that China’s goal of assembling heads of state, ministers, and other leaders from various countries at the Beijing Olympics to demonstrate its clout at home and abroad is going awry,” adding that: “This situation was brought about by China’s unwillingness to disclose information, while instead simply denying accusations of human rights abuses by calling them lies.” Some hardliners in the United States are now calling for their government to not send U.S. athletes to Beijing.


The Nikkei wrote, “The spirit of the Olympics to respect diversity and the emphasis on human rights are inseparable. A diplomatic boycott should be accepted as an effective means of communicating the country’s emphasis on human rights while keeping real impact on the Games to a minimum.” The Yomiuri also showed understanding for the initiative, writing, “The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden … may have decided that it would be necessary to send a firm message to China, while respecting the position of U.S. athletes who have prepared hard for the Olympics.”


Meanwhile, Asahi Shimbun was critical of the Biden administration’s decision. “[The U.S. administration] seems to be hoping to demonstrate a firm stance toward China and an emphasis on human rights by refraining from sending an official government delegation, even though the delegation would have played only supplementary role,” the Asahi wrote, adding, “There is no indication that the move by the United States will bear fruit. While the U.S. government denies it will ask other countries to follow suit, it is certain that the United States will demand nations, especially its allies and partners that value their relationship with the U.S., to ‘choose sides.’” The daily went on to express further discontent, writing, “The boycott will instill anti-American sentiment in the hearts of the Chinese public instead of human rights awareness.”


Mainichi Shimbun stressed: “A deterioration of relations will negatively impact the Olympic athletes. To avoid such outcome, nations must strive to find a way to prevent schisms from growing.”


Following the U.S. announcement, the UK, Australia, and Canada announced a diplomatic boycott of the Games, while France announced it would not join in. Japan has as yet been reluctant to clarify its position.


“Japan will make its own decision in light of national interests after considering the issue in a comprehensive manner, taking into account the meaning of the Olympic Games, possible impacts on Japan’s diplomacy, and other factors,” Prime Minister Kishida Fumio has said. The Sankei criticized the premier, saying his words “lack a sense of urgency and indignation over the human rights situation.”


“As the Chinese government does not intend to remedy the situation, the only right path for Japan is to join the movement of diplomatic boycott,” the Sankei wrote, pointing out that: “… nothing would be more damaging to Japan’s honor and national interests than for its prime minister, ministers, and delegation to shake hands with those in charge of the oppressive Chinese government at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.”


The Japanese government is considering such options as sending a smaller delegation or a delegation with lower-ranking officials instead of announcing a total diplomatic boycott. However, Kishida’s decision on this matter presents an opportunity for the Prime Minister to clearly demonstrate how serious he is about “upholding human rights.” The issue calls for an unambiguous response.

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