Putin’s visit to Beijing to participate in the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in February next year will make him the first head of state to meet face-to-face with Xi since the COVID-19 outbreak in central Wuhan province in China in 2019.
China and Russia have a great tradition of celebrating great events together. In 2014, Xi attended the Winter Olympics ceremony in Sochi, Russia, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Today, President Xi Jinping invites his good friend President Putin to attend the Beijing Winter Olympics. President Putin gladly accepted the invitation, Zhao said.
He said the two sides were in close communication over the details of the visit.
We believe this will once again show the best mutual aid China-Russia partnership. We hope and are confident that athletes from both countries will set new records and make new contributions to deliver a splendid and safe Olympics, Zhao said.
Biden said last week that supporting a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in February is something we are considering.
Beijing is making great preparations to host the Olympic Winter Games to be held in February next year.
The event makes Beijing the only city in the world to have hosted both the Summer and Winter Olympics. The city hosted the Summer Olympics in 2008.
Besides the United States, the EU and several other Western countries were to join the diplomatic boycott, which meant that their leaders and diplomats would not participate in the opening and closing ceremonies while their athletes participated in sporting events.
U.S. First Lady Jill Biden led the U.S. contingent at the Tokyo Summer Olympics this year and second man Doug Emhoff led a delegation to the Paralympics.
China and Russia have been strengthening their strategic ties in recent years as the US and EU push them against them on a host of issues, including human rights abuses.
Calls to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics intensified after Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai went missing after allegedly that a top ruling Communist Party leader forced her to have sex.
Peng, 35, disappeared after alleging on WeChat on November 17 that she was forced to have sex by former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, 75 years after her retirement from power in 2017.
His explosive #MeToo allegation posted on his WeChat account on November 17 was taken off social media by Chinese censors. Subsequently, reports of his disappearance sparked international outcry.
The UN, the United States and a host of international tennis stars, including Serena Williams, have expressed concern over her sudden disappearance and called on China to reveal her whereabouts.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has also reportedly threatened to withdraw the tournaments from China.
In the past few days, in an apparent damage control measure, reporters from China’s state media have posted photos and videos of her participating in public events.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) also said that Peng had a 30-minute video call with its president Thomas Bach on the same day.
However, doubts remain about Peng’s freedom of movement.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) is concerned that her allegation of sexual assault could be censored and swept under the rug, according to a statement by WTA Chairman Steve Simon, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on Tuesday.
According to the WTA, the senior official at the center of the sexual assault allegation is former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli.
Neither Zhang, who led the Beijing Winter Olympics task force from 2015 to 2018 and met with Bach in 2016, nor the Chinese government have commented on the allegation.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International has warned the IOC that the sports body is entering dangerous waters and that extreme care should be taken not to participate in a possible laundering of human rights violations by China.
Reacting to Amnesty’s comments, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao said the so-called organization you mentioned is obsessed with anti-China views, he said, adding that its words did not deserve any rebuttal.
On Peng’s disappearance, Zhao, who has addressed questions in recent days saying it is not a diplomatic issue on Tuesday, drew media attention to his video chat with the IOC president.
I think you may have noticed that she attended open activities. She also had a video call with the IOC President. We hope the parties involved can stop the malicious hype and stop politicizing the issue.
The diplomatic boycott of the United States and its allies could cast a shadow over the grand opening ceremony China has planned for the event, as their official delegations will be conspicuously absent to report human rights concerns.
The US and EU countries have accused China of widespread human rights claims amounting to genocide against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang who opposed the growing majority of Han Chinese settlements.
They also criticize the human rights situation in Hong Kong and Tibet.
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