28 Jan 2022, 16:12

Xi to host banquet for visiting leaders at Winter Olympics

 BEIJING, Jan 28, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - China's President Xi Jinping will host a

banquet for heads of state and international organisations coming to the
Winter Olympics, state media reported Friday, as some Western nations choose
to diplomatically boycott the Games.

   State broadcaster CCTV released an updated list of dignitaries for next
Friday's opening ceremony which included many of China's neighbours, a host
of royals and leaders from key autocratic nations.

   Among the more than 20 foreign visitors on the list were Egypt's President
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

   Russia's Vladimir Putin was last year the first foreign leader to confirm
his presence at the Beijing Olympics and was included on the list released

   The dignitaries will attend the February 4 opening ceremony, a welcome
banquet and "relevant bilateral activities" with Xi, CCTV reported.

   Their presence comes despite a US-led diplomatic boycott by countries
including Britain, Canada, Australia and Denmark over China's human rights

   Other nations such as Japan are not sending officials and have voiced
concerns about China's rights record while steering clear of formally
announcing they are part of the boycott.

   Some Western countries have refused to send officials over China's strict
pandemic travel restrictions.

   Human rights groups have long accused Sisi, Prince Mohammed and Putin of
rights abuses in their countries.

   The list released by CCTV also includes leaders from China's mostly
authoritarian Central Asian neighbours as well as the Emir of Qatar and Abu
Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed.

   Other royals include Thailand's Princess Sirindhorn and Prince Albert II
of Monaco.

   Confirmed European invitees include Poland's President Andrzej Duda and
Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic.

   World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and the United
Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres are among global institution
leaders coming to the Games.

   The arrival of the dignitaries will kick off a flurry of face-to-face
diplomatic activity for Xi, who has remained in China throughout the
coronavirus pandemic as the country pursues a strict zero-Covid strategy.

   Xi received International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach in Beijing
earlier this week -- his first face-to-face meeting with a visiting foreign
official in two years.

   Beijing is keen to shore up international support for the Games, which are
the most politicised in recent memory.

   The lead-up has been clouded by the diplomatic boycott, fears over tech
surveillance of athletes and a coronavirus outbreak in the host city Beijing.



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