President of Estonia Alar Karis has announced he will not be attending February's Winter Olympics in Beijing, citing political factors, daily Postimees reports. Karis' announcement follows news that political representatives from the U.S., the U.K. and other countries will not be visiting the games, which start February 4.
Karis told Kanal 2 about his decision, Postimees reports (link in Estonian), adding that heads of state of neighboring countries would also not be in attendance.
A Beijing spokesperson said in response that: "Noone cares whether they come or not," Postimees reports.
ERR reports that Karis' decision may also have been made in line with a common EU position, one which may be discussed further at next week's meeting of EU foreign ministers, though a government spokesperson told ERR Thursday that the issue of whether any Estonian leaders would be traveling to the games, and who that might be, had not been talked about.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week that the U.S. would not be sending official or diplomatic representation to the 2022 winter olympics and paralympics, citing human rights abuses in general and in the Xinjiang province in particular.
She said: "The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games given the PRC's ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses."
Sport in Estonia falls under the culture ministry's remit; spokesperson Hannus Luure told ERR that the ministry had received an invitation to the games addressed to the culture minister, Tiit Terik, and also under secretary Tarvi Pürn, but was unable to say at that stage whether either would be going.
Other states to have declared a political boycott of the Winter Olympics include Australia and Canada, though France has stated that it will not be following suit, ERR reports.
Relations between Estonia and China have not quite reached a nadir on a par with those between Lithuania and China – Beijing recently warned multinational companies to sever ties with the southernmost Baltic State, if they wished to continue doing business there, while Taiwan recently opened an embassy in Vilnius.
However, two Estonian Riigikogu MPs recently earned themselves a rebuke from Beijing after attending a pan-Baltic legislators meeting in Taipei.
The status of the use of Huawei 5G tech in Estonia is unclear – the Chinese company says it is not facing a bar on operating in Estonia, though legislation ostensibly doing just that passed at the Riigikogu in late November.
The XXIV Winter Olympics start in Beijing on February 4 2022, the Winter Paralympics exactly a month later.
Kanal 2 is a TV channel owned by the Postimees Group.
Editor: Andrew Whyte