President Xi Jinping on Tuesday inspected the facilities for the upcoming 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing and reviewed the work for the Games as well as Chinese athletes' preparations. The United States, Australia and Canada have also announced a diplomatic boycott of the Games over China's human rights record.
Xi, also General Secretary of the ruling Communist Party of China, visited the National Speed Skating Oval, Main Media Centre, Athletes' Village, Games-time Operations Command Centre and a winter sports training base, learning about Games preparatory work as well as Chinese athletes' preparations for the Games.
He also extended New Year greetings to athletes, coaches, volunteers and representatives of operation teams, media and scientific research staff, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. The 2022 Winter Olympics will take place from February 4 to 20, followed by the Paralympic Winter Games from March 4 to 13.
The Beijing Games have been shrouded in controversy, with activists and critics calling for boycotts over concerns of human rights abuses in China -- particularly against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs in the restive western region of Xinjiang.
A number of foreign governments, lawmakers, independent tribunals, and humanitarian groups have declared China's treatment of Uyghurs a genocide. Britain, Canada and Australia have followed the US in announcing diplomatic boycotts -- meaning they will not send any official delegation, though their athletes will still compete.
The US said its boycott was due to China's "egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang." China has denounced the boycotts, arguing that politics and sports should remain separate, and that participating countries are contradicting the Olympic spirit of unity.
Beijing, the host city of the 2008 Summer Olympics, is set to become the first city to host both the summer and winter editions of the Olympic Games. This is the fifth time that Xi has inspected preparations for the Beijing Winter Olympics, following his tours in January 2017, February 2017, February 2019 and January 2021, the official media reported.