France will not join a diplomatic boycott by other Western countries of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing, Education and Sports Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said on Thursday (Dec 9).
Asked about a boycott announced by the United States, Australia, Britain and Canada, Blanquer told RMC radio and BFM television that France “won’t do it”.
“We need to be careful about the link between sports and politics,” Blanquer said during the interview.
Read more: France’s Macron gears up for UAE Rafale fighter jet deal
“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 that France would carry on condemning human rights violations in China.
He will not travel to the Chinese capital, he said, but junior sports minister Roxana Maracineanu will represent the French government.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian 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.
Read more: French govt organizes Islamic exhibitions across France
China warned Western nations on Thursday they would “pay the price” for a diplomatic boycott.
Washington announced its boycott earlier in the week, saying it was prompted by widespread rights abuses by China and what it sees as a “genocide” against the Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.
The United States, Canada, Australia and Britain all said this week that their government officials will not attend the Games in order to send China a message over its human rights record.
“As for a diplomatic boycott…France will not do it,” Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said on BFM TV. “Sports is a world in itself, which must be protected from political interference.”
Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu will attend the Beijing Olympics, he said. But violations of human rights in China must be condemned, he added.
Reuters with additional input by GVS