Merkley slams ‘shameful’ decision by UN secretary-general to attend Beijing Olympics

Sen. Jeff Merkly (D-Ore.)
Greg Nash

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) slammed the United Nations secretary-general’s decision to attend the 2022 Beijing Olympics, calling it “shameful.”

“It’s shameful for António Guterres to appear at the games,” Merkley told Politico in an interview on Wednesday, adding, “The U.N. has basically failed human rights.” 

A handful of nations have announced they will be participating in diplomatic boycotts of the Games over China’s ongoing human rights abuses, meaning that government officials from those countries will not be attending the sporting event in person but athletes will be permitted to compete.

Among the countries that have said they will diplomatically boycott the Games are the United States, Taiwan, Lithuania, the United Kingdom and Australia.

“The Secretary-General considers the Olympic Games as an important expression of unity, mutual respect and cooperation between different cultures, religions and ethnicities.  The Olympic ideal is something that we must cherish and is very much in line with the values of the United Nations,” Farhan Haq, a spokesperson for Guterres, said in an email to The Hill.

“The Secretary-General is hopeful that the present contacts between the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Chinese Mission in Geneva will allow for the invitation to the High Commissioner to visit China, including Xinjiang, to lead to a credible mission after the Olympics,” Haq added.

Haq noted that the U.N. secretary-general has, both in public and in private, called for the respect for human rights and “for the authorities to act in a way that each community feels that their identity is respected and that they belong to the country as a whole.”

A number of nations have declined to participate in the diplomatic boycott against the Games, including France. In December, French President Emmanuel Macron warned against politicizing the event.

“I don’t think we should politicize these topics, especially if it’s to take steps that are insignificant and symbolic,” Macron said, according to the BBC.

“To be clear: You either have a complete boycott, and don’t send athletes, or you try to change things with useful actions,” he noted.

Tags 2022 Beijing Olympics Antonio Guterres diplomatic boycott Emmanuel Macron Jeff Merkley Jeff Merkley

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