The United Kingdom did not normally favour boycotting sporting events, British prime minister Boris Johnson said in a speech on Wednesday.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), Johnson responded after being asked whether London would boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing over alleged human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
Johnson said that it was correct to note the reportedly “appalling campaign” against Uyghurs in China’s westernmost province but declined to back the boycott.
“He raises the point about a sporting boycott. We’re not normally in favour of supporting boycotts in this country … and that’s been the long-standing position of this government,” Johnson said.
The comment comes just days after Canadian lawmakers voted unanimously to back a non-binding measure to declare China was “committing genocide” against over 1m Uyghurs in the region, which Beijing has strongly and repeatedly denied.
The vote would also pressure nations to join moves to relocate the Winter Olympics from Beijing to another city, it was found.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet abstained from vote, according to media reports.
The measure from Ottawa sparked outcry from Chinese officials, with a spokesperson urging Canada to reflect on its own “tragic history” of genocide against indigenous people.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also called on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Monday to launch an inquiry on the human rights abuse allegations and pledged to strengthen human rights initiatives globally.
Raab also cited human rights abuse allegations in Hong Kong after Beijing strengthened regional security via a National Security Law which entered force in August last year amid violent secessionist protests in the semi-autonomous region.
The UK’s House of Lords recently introduced an amendment potentially banning British firms from doing business in Xinjiang, citing alleged human rights abuse and forced labour in the region, among others.