European Parliament calls for diplomatic boycott of 2022 Beijing Olympics as Xi Jinping lobbies Greece
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European officials should “decline invitations” to attend the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing due to China’s human rights abuses, lawmakers in the European Parliament agreed Thursday, but Chinese officials are using their economic clout on the continent to avoid a comprehensive boycott.
“It is clear that many EU member states and also the European Commission are reluctant to speak out against China’s repressive measures in Hong Kong,” the chairman of the European Parliament’s China delegation, Reinhard Butikofer of Germany, who helped spearhead the nonbinding resolution, said Thursday. “The consensus on these issues in the European Parliament is very strong. We will fight to ensure that member state governments in Europe also take an unyielding stance.”
China is facing growing criticism across the European Union, although many national governments within the EU remain hesitant of a direct confrontation. An accumulation of human rights controversies, especially the Chinese Communist atrocities against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang and the crackdown in Hong Kong, has stoked Western distaste for the regime in Beijing, even as China’s diplomats deny any wrong-doing and vow to “strike back” against such criticism.
“China firmly opposes the politicization of sports, and the interference in other countries’ internal affairs by using human rights issues as a pretext,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Thursday. “Attempts to disrupt, obstruct and sabotage the preparation and convening of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games out of political motivation are extremely irresponsible, and will only harm the interests of athletes of all countries and the international Olympic cause.”
Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping countered the European Parliament’s nonbinding resolution by turning to Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose government affirmed its participation in the Belt and Road Initiative last month despite U.S. diplomatic warnings that “China itself has identified [Greece] as the dragon’s head” of its play for economic influence in Europe. The two leaders agreed that “bilateral relations are at a high level and recapped the multifaceted cooperation between Greece and China,” the Greek side stated in a summary of the call.
“Mr Xi invited Mr Mitsotakis to the 2022 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Beijing,” the readout concluded. “The Prime Minister accepted the invitation.”
Greek Ambassador to NATO Spiros Lambridis has emphasized that Athens does not regard China’s investment in Greece as influencing “a strategic relationship with another partner,” saying deals struck thus far can coexist with the country’s duties as members of NATO and the EU.
In any case, China’s preferred format for outreach to European nations such as Greece is under strain, particularly in post-Soviet countries that regard the United States as their irreplaceable bulwark against Russia. Lithuania, for instance, backed out of China’s so-called “17+1” dialogue with southern and Eastern European nations in May, after snubbing Xi by sending lower-level officials to the 17+1 virtual summit in February — when the communist chief expected to meet exclusively with heads of state.
“We would like to see more countries, you know, follow us because we really feel that the format is divisive, it’s not healthy for Europe,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said last week.
Lithuanian officials are pushing to scrap that format entirely and replace it with “a 27+1 format” that would bring every member of the EU into a single dialogue with China. That’s a bid to organize not only China’s conversations with southern and central European countries but also to curtail the bespoke diplomacy of France and Germany, the EU’s western heavyweights.
“I think if we see how Europe engages with China, we see it’s either bilateral, where big countries have their own track to talk with China … [what] is now the 16+1. But there is no united position on China, there is no united format to talk with China,” Landsbergis said.
French and German officials led the charge for an investment deal with China that was inked during the transition from former President Donald Trump’s administration to President Joe Biden’s term, but the European Parliament put that deal on ice after China sanctioned European officials for condemning Beijing’s human rights abuses.
“Over the last 18 months, it is true the political space for mutual understanding and mutual trust has been negatively impacted,” the EU’s ambassador to China, Nicolas Chapuis, said earlier this week. “It brings to us concerns that these attitudes are not only assertive, but it’s turning too aggressive, much to our dislike.”
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Original Author: Joel Gehrke