Belarus Sports and Tourism Minister Sergey Kovalchuk has hit out at politicians in the West urging their countries to boycott next year’s Winter Olympic Games over fears about China’s human rights record.
There have been growing calls in the United States, United Kingdom, European Union and Canada for there to be some kind of action to protest against China in response to alleged abuses in Xinjiang and a security crackdown in Hong Kong.
"Today a politician is the person who must try to unite people by any means, build correct communications, fight for peace, fight for friendly relations between countries," Kovalchuk told China’s official state news agency Xinhua.
"The politicians who are trying to lobby their interests through sports, dividing the sports communities, are weak politicians, short-sighted.
"Such politicians have nothing to do in this area of activity."
Kovalchuk’s comments could also be seen as being directed at International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach after they imposed sanctions on Belarus following the controversial re-election in August of the country’s leader Alexander Lukashenko.
As a result of the worldwide condemnation of Lukashenko, Belarus has been stripped of several major events, most notably this year’s International Ice Hockey World Championship, which it was due to co-host with Latvia.
The threat of Belarus athletes having to compete under a neutral flag at both next month’s rearranged Olympic Games in Tokyo and Beijing 2022 remains as a punishment for Lukashenko allegedly targeting athletes who have joined in protests against him.
China has shown its support for Lukashenko by continuing to make major investments in Belarus.
China’s largest investment in Belarus is the Great Stone Industrial Park, which is located on the outskirts of the capital Minsk.
This project, which Chinese President Xi Jinping once called the "pearl" of the Belt and Road Initiative, is China’s largest overseas development project, with an area of 112 square kilometres and the capacity to accommodate 200,000 workers.
Kovalchuk has, therefore, not surprisingly expressed confidence in Beijing hosting another successful Olympics when they are set to become the first city to host both the summer and winter editions of the Games.
The coronavirus pandemic, which originated in China at the end of 2019, has not slowed down preparations for the Games.
"Today, the way China is fighting the pandemic can become an example for the whole world," Kovalchuk told Xinhua.
"I am confident that China will cope with all the tasks that are entrusted while planning and organising the Olympic Games.
"China has ample experience.
"All the competitions in China are held at the highest level including ensuring the safety of both citizens of their country and all athletes who will be at this time in Beijing.
"We do not even have doubts about whether to send our Belarusian athletes to the Olympics in Beijing.
"They will definitely go to these Olympic Games."
Belarus made its Olympic debut as an independent country at Lillehammer in the 1994 Winter Olympics following the break-up of the Soviet Union and has appeared in every Games since.
They have won a total of 18 medals in the Winter Olympics, including eight gold - four in biathlon and four in freestyle skiing.
At Pyeongchang 2018, they won three medals, with golds for Hanna Huskova in freestyle skiing women’s aerials and the women’s biathlon relay team.