Canada PM not to attend Beijing Olympics opening ceremony

April 5th, 2008 - 2:13 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead)

Toronto, April 5 (IANS) Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel in announcing that he will not attend the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, although a high-level Canadian delegation will be present at the event. Harper announced his decision Thursday in Romania, where he is attending a NATO summit.

“I don’t have and have not had any plans to attend the opening ceremonies myself, but we are still planning to have high level government representation,” Harper told a press conference in Bucharest.

Since Canada is hosting the next Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010, it remains to be seen how China will respond.

Harper didn’t categorically say his skipping the opening ceremony was linked to the Chinese crackdown in Tibet.

However, he pointedly asked China to pay heed to the international community’s concern over the violent situation in Tibet.

“My advice - I know the government of China is not typically taking my advice - my strong advice would be to take these concerns seriously because I think they are likely to grow rather than diminish if we see a repetition of the current pattern,” he said.

The prime minister, who hosted the Dalai Lama in Ottawa last year and is known for his hard-line stance against human rights violations by the Chinese, said the Olympics were an opportunity for Beijing to start addressing its poor human rights record.

“I would also encourage the government of China to understand that its growing wealth, its growing importance in the world and of course the profile of the Olympics will put a greater and greater spotlight on its record in this regard.”

Harper asked China “to respect human rights and peaceful protests not just in Tibet but everywhere”.

The prime minister made it clear that Canada would not boycott the Olympics, saying the global sentiment was against such a step.

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