Decision on 2022 Games delegation reasonable, but not clearly expressed

Freedom, human rights and the rule of law are universal values. It is necessary to send a clear message that China’s actions, which trample on these values, will not be tolerated.

The government has decided not to send a government delegation with Cabinet ministers to the Beijing Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games when the event kicks off in February.

The government said that Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and Yasuhiro Yamashita, the president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, will attend the Games, among others.

The United States, Britain, Australia and other countries have announced that they will not send government delegations to participate in the Games, citing the suppression of human rights in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

If Japan sent a high-ranking official to the Olympics under such circumstances, it could be perceived as an acceptance of the human rights situation in China. It is only natural that Japan will not send a government delegation.

“It is important that freedom, respect for basic human rights and the rule of law are also guaranteed in China,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stressed to reporters. “I made the decision myself by taking various factors into account,” he said, referring to the nature of the Olympics as a festival of peace, among others.

The Chinese administration of President Xi Jinping denies the fact of the suppression of the Uighur ethnic minority and has not even accepted a U.N. fact-finding mission requested by the international community. China seems to think it can dodge international criticism with its economic power.

After the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989, Japan supported China’s reintegration into the international community and did not back the tough sanctions imposed by the United States and some European countries. However, China’s democratization did not proceed as expected. This bitter experience must not be repeated.

If the government adopts an ambiguous stance, it will give the impression to the international community that Japan is a country that puts economic interests before human rights. Japan’s idea of realizing a “free and open Indo-Pacific” will also lose its persuasive power.

Some within the Liberal Democratic Party suggested that Japan should join the “diplomatic boycott” and send no government representatives. The government’s decision not to dispatch Japan Sports Agency Commissioner Koji Murofushi, after briefly considering doing so, was probably based on such opinions.

It is important for the government to directly convey the message that China will be at a great disadvantage if the human rights situation is not improved. Shouldn’t the government have stated this more clearly, instead of using the phrase “taking various factors into account?”

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China.

In order to use the anniversary as an opportunity to stabilize Japan-China relations, Beijing must change its provocative behavior, such as its intrusions into Japan’s territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands and its increased military activities around the Nansei Islands.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Dec. 25, 2021.