China unveils guest list for world leader of Winter Olympics

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Beijing (AFP) – China on Friday revealed a list of visiting dignitaries for next week’s Winter Olympics, which includes the leaders of Russia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt for an event that is being diplomatically avoided by some Western countries.

Beijing is keen to boost international support for the Games, which are the most politicized in recent memory.

Several Western countries have announced a diplomatic boycott citing China’s human rights record, in particular its crackdown on Muslim Uyghurs in the western region of Xinjiang which the United States has called “genocide”.

State broadcaster CCTV has released an updated guest list for next Friday’s opening ceremony, which includes many of China’s neighbors, a host of royals and leaders of key autocratic nations. .

Among the more than 20 foreign visitors on the list are Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Russian Vladimir Putin was the first foreign leader to confirm his presence at the Beijing Olympics last year and is on the list released on Friday.

The dignitaries will attend the February 4 opening ceremony, a welcome banquet and “relevant bilateral activities” with Xi, CCTV reported.

Their presence comes despite a US-led diplomatic boycott by countries including Britain, Canada, Australia and Denmark over China’s rights record.

Other countries like Japan do not send officials and have expressed concerns about human rights in China while avoiding officially announcing that they are part of the boycott.

Some Western countries such as the Netherlands have refused to send officials due to China’s strict pandemic travel restrictions.

Human rights groups have long accused Sisi, Prince Mohammed and Putin of rights abuses in their countries.

Royals

The list published by CCTV also includes leaders of the mostly authoritarian Central Asian neighbors as well as the Emir of Qatar and Crown Prince Mohammed of Abu Dhabi.

Other members of the royal family include Princess Sirindhorn of Thailand and Prince Albert II of Monaco.

Confirmed European guests include Polish President Andrzej Duda and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres are among the leaders of global institutions heading to the Games.

The arrival of the dignitaries will kick off a flurry of face-to-face diplomatic activity for Xi, who has remained in China throughout the coronavirus pandemic as the country pursues a strict zero-Covid strategy. .

Xi received International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach in Beijing earlier this week – his first face-to-face meeting with a visiting foreign official in two years.

Critics of the IOC’s decision to award the Winter Games to Beijing have long cited China’s rights record.

Surveillance of a host nation increases with every Olympics approaching, but China under Xi has become demonstrably more authoritarian and muscular on the world stage.

Compared to the 2008 Summer Olympics, China’s relations with Western powers and many of its neighbors are much more strained.

Rights groups estimate that at least a million Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims have been incarcerated in Xinjiang. China denies genocide or the existence of forced labor camps.

It says a vast network of camps that have been built there are “vocational training centers” to support employment and counter religious extremism.

An ongoing political crackdown in Hong Kong has also strained ties with many Western powers.

China’s history of technological surveillance has also weighed on preparations for the Games, with some countries and cybersecurity researchers asking athletes and other participants to take temporary phones and laptops.

Beijing dismissed those concerns and accused the United States and other Western powers of “politicizing” the Olympics.

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