Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his government hasn't discussed boycotting the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics over human rights concerns, but that he does not plan to attend.Quote has been trimmed
Harper made the comments in Bucharest Thursday, saying it had never been his intention to attend the ceremonies — even before anti-government demonstrations in Tibet last month in which at least 22 people died.
"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 at a two-day NATO summit in the Romanian capital.
A number of countries including France, Belgium and Norway, as well as the president of the European Union's parliament, have suggested they are considering a boycott as a symbol of displeasure over China's handling of the Tibet protests.
Harper said he didn't believe there was a plan in the works for a global boycott of the ceremonies, but suggested China should take heed of rising concerns over its human rights record, "because I think they are likely to grow rather than diminish if we see a repetition of the current pattern."
That's a tad hypocritical... how about we address the human rights problems here in our country that are facing our natives before we start pointing fingers at other countries for their problems?
"I would continue to urge China to respect human rights and peaceful protest, not just in Tibet but everywhere," Harper said.
"And 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."
China says at least 22 people were killed and hundreds injured after several days of peaceful demonstrations in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa turned violent on March 14. China's tight control of the media makes it difficult to verify its claims; Tibetan-rights groups say nearly 140 Tibetans were killed.
China's handling of the unrest has drawn criticism and calls from pro-Tibet groups to boycott the upcoming Olympic Games, which run Aug. 8-24 in Beijing.
Bush should consider boycott: Democrats
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week President George W. Bush should consider the measure, though the White House has said he will attend.
"I think boycotting the opening ceremony, which really gives respect to the Chinese government, is something that should be kept on the table," the Democratic member said in an interview taped for airing on ABC's Good Morning America.
"I think the president might want to rethink this later, depending on what other heads of state do."
Germany has rejected the idea, along with Portugal, Denmark and Cyprus, according to media reports.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said last week that he would consult other European leaders before deciding whether to boycott the opening ceremonies, but reserved the right to decide for himself.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, however, has said clearly that Britain, which is hosting the 2012 Olympics in London, will attend.
Canada will host the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.