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Canada in discussions with ‘closest partners’ on possible Olympic boycott

By Michael Lee, CTVNews.ca writer

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    TORONTO, Ontario (CTV Network) — Canada will continue to discuss with its partners a potential diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, a foreign affairs spokesperson says, amid the recent disappearance of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai.

“Canada remains deeply disturbed by the troubling reports of human rights violations in China,” said Syrine Khoury, press secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly, in a statement to CTVNews.ca.

This past week, U.S. President Joe Biden confirmed — during a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House — that he is considering a diplomatic boycott of the Olympic Games next year.

In response to a question on the U.S. president’s comments and Canada’s position on a boycott, Khoury said they will “continue to discuss this matter with our closest partners.”

Trudeau said previously that Canada has had conversations with its partners and allies around the world about the Beijing Olympics.

“There are an awful lot of athletes in Canada and around the world who have been training, focused on this very, very much,” he said. “We’re looking for a way to both be able to see them show their capacities and fulfil all the hard work that they’ve done for many years, while continuing to demonstrate our real concerns with the way the Chinese government has behaved.”

The whereabouts of Peng, 35, are currently unknown after the tennis player publicly accused Zhang Gaoli, 75, a former vice-premier who was a member of the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, of sexually assaulting her.

Peng wrote a lengthy social media post on Nov. 2 saying she was forced to have sex three years ago with Zhang in his home despite repeated refusals.

The post was quickly deleted from her verified account on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, although screenshots of her accusations have been shared online.

China’s Foreign Ministry said Friday it was not aware of the controversy surrounding Peng, a former top-ranked player in women’s doubles who won titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014. She has participated in three Olympic Games.

David Shoemaker, the CEO and secretary-general of the Canadian Olympic Committee, has previously described calls for a boycott as “misguided.”

A boycott of the Beijing Olympics has been raised, prior to Peng’s disappearance, in response to China’s political actions in Hong Kong, as well as its treatment of minority groups including Tibetan Buddhists and Muslim Uyghurs.

Last month, the wife of a Canadian Uyghur advocate who has been in a Chinese prison for 15 years called on the federal government to boycott the games.

The past detentions of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, who spent more than 1,000 days in Chinese custody on espionage charges in what was seen as retaliation for Canada’s December 2018 arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. warrant, also have been cited as reasons to consider a boycott.

With files from Rachel Aiello and The Canadian Press

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