26th Feb 2024


EU diplomatic boycott of China's brutal Olympics essential

  • The 'Cinderella's Shoe' venue in Shougang, China, which will host snow sport events (Photo: Wikimedia)
Listen to article

The Olympic Games are a lasting, universally revered celebration of humankind's sporting excellence. A festival of physical prowess and mental fortitude, in the spirit of fair play and equality.

But they are also symbolic of so much more. Since its rebirth in the modern age over a century ago, the founding values of the Olympic Movement have been to foster friendship, respect and understanding in the hopes of building a better, more peaceful world.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Protests in 2008 against China hosting the summer Olympics (Photo: Reporters Without Borders)

And yet, as the snow settles in Beijing ahead of the most controversial Olympics in decades, EU leaders and officials have stalled and skirted around the question of a diplomatic boycott for far too long, failing, once more, to reach a consensus.

Let me be clear. China's notorious human rights abuses against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang and its brutal suppression of freedom and democracy in Hong Kong have invalidated its right, and indeed privilege, to host the prestigious winter games.

In Hong Kong, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its cronies have systematically savaged the city's democracy, autonomy, and political pluralism as enshrined in Hong Kong's Basic Law and the internationally-recognised Sino-British Joint Declaration.

Through its imposition of the draconian National Security Law in 2020, Beijing has overseen the relentless campaign to wipe out political opposition through arbitrary arrests and the mass incarceration of lawmakers, activists, and opponents, while many have been forced into exile.

Leaving no stone unturned in the crusade against its critics, the quisling Hong Kong regime has also thoroughly dismantled press freedoms, shuttering independent publishers such as Apple Daily, Stand News and Citizen News, while jailing journalists and seizing assets.

Hong Kong's civil society has similarly bore the brunt of Beijing's crackdown.

More than 50 organisations, from trade unions to the Tiananmen solidarity group, have been forced to disband since the security law's introduction under mounting pressure, harassment, and the arrests of members by authorities.

And most recently, in December, Beijing sealed its totalitarian takeover of Hong Kong through sham parliamentary elections in which only vetted, CCP-approved candidates were permitted to run.

The result: in the Hong Kong legislature, 99 percent of lawmakers are Beijing loyalists.

In response to the endless catalogue of communist coercion, a significant cohort of countries, including the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, have heeded the growing international calls for a diplomatic boycott and ruled out sending official representation.

EU bloc divided

Joined by only a smattering of EU member states, notably Lithuania, Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia and the Netherlands, the bloc remains very much divided.

And despite pledges by France, the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, to coordinate a common position, with only a few days to go until the Olympics are underway, it appears unlikely that a continental consensus can be agreed.

The European Parliament, on the other hand, has consistently led the line in standing up to China on the European stage.

Just this month, MEPs reaffirmed their staunch support for an EU-wide diplomatic boycott of the Beijing games, as well as the imposition of sanctions on CCP officials guilty of abuses, and the implementation of a lifeboat scheme for desperate Hong Kongers fleeing Beijing-sponsored tyranny.

While a handful of member states have demonstrated brave leadership in the face of an ever-belligerent China, the EU as a whole has shrunk and shied away from principled and concerted action.

It cannot be acceptable for EU leaders and officials to pretend it is business as usual whilst China continues its crackdown in Hong Kong, on the Uyghurs, and fuels tensions with Taiwan, directly flouting the values of integrity, respect, and friendship that the Olympics are supposed to embody.

The EU must, therefore, get its act together fast and demonstrate its commitment to the universal values of freedom, human rights, and the rule of law by staging a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

Such a protest would send a clear message that the EU values human rights and condemns China's disdain for freedom and democracy. By not participating in a diplomatic boycott, the EU risks being complicit in China's plan to sport wash its brutal reputation.

Time is quickly running out for the EU to send a clear message to Beijing that its atrocities are shocking and will not be tolerated by the rest of the world.

Author bio

Engin Eroglu is a German MEP with the Renew Europe group.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.


Burkinis and 'soul caps' - policing Olympic women back in fashion

There are no fixed rules. Anyone can criticise, condone and codify women's apparel. The game is inclusive, bringing together an assorted collection of voyeurs, misogynists, racists, bigots, religious fanatics and culture warriors – but also feminists and other equality campaigners.

Mandelson warns against Olympic boycott 'grandstanding'

EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson has attacked those suggesting a boycott of the Olympics over the Chinese government's crackdown in Tibet as engaging in "grandstanding and gestures" and warned against damaging the relationship Europe has with China.

Time to stop China's economic hostage-taking of Lithuania

Simply opening the Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania's capital, Vilnius, sparked a large-scale expansion of China's economic warfare against democracies. China's actions amount to a fundamental attack on the DNA of the European Union: the internal market.

After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports

Two years of tragedies, with well over 100,000 Russian war crimes now registered, underscore the urgent need to stop international LNG investments in Russia that continue to fund Vladimir Putin's war chest.

Ukraine refugees want to return home — but how?

Fewer than one-in-ten Ukrainian refugees intend to settle permanently outside Ukraine, according to new research by the associate director of research and the director of gender and economic inclusion at the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.

Latest News

  1. More farmers, Ukraine aid, Yulia Navalnaya in focus This WEEK
  2. EU rewards Tusk's Poland on rule of law with €137bn
  3. UK-EU relations defrosting ahead of near-certain Labour win
  4. EU paid Russia €420-per-capita for fossil fuels since war began
  5. After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports
  6. Creating the conditions for just peace in Ukraine
  7. Energy and minerals disputes overshadow new EU-ACP pact
  8. Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us