United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres refused a request from the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. to skip the Beijing Winter Olympics due to human rights violations in China, Foreign Policy magazine reported Tuesday.
Guterres will attend the opening ceremony of the Olympics on Friday, despite a number of Western governments boycotting the event, and he has declined to say whether he will at least raise human rights concerns while he is in Beijing, as U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield reportedly requested.
The U.S. has been outspoken about the mass internment of the Uyghur people in China, among other human rights issues.
“We’ve made our views clear to the secretary-general, and we have repeatedly, publicly expressed our grave concern about the situation in Xinjiang,” a U.S. spokesperson said.
According to Foreign Policy, Guterres told Thomas-Greenfield that he had already offended China by participating in the Summit for Democracy, led by President Biden, where Taiwanese Digital Minister Audrey Tang was also present.
“The Olympic Games is an extremely important event, and it’s an event that symbolizes the role of sports in bringing people together and in promoting peace,” Guterres said last month. “It is in this strict context and without any political dimension that I intend to be present in the opening – with this message that the Olympic Games must be an instrument for peace in the world.”
The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, has also rejected urging from the U.S. and Europe to release a human rights report on the Uyghurs’ situation.
Bachelet spokesperson Rupert Colville said Friday that the report will not be released before the Beijing Olympics, leading some to wonder whether the timeline is intentional to save China from embarrassment during the Games.