World leaders present at Beijing Winter Olympics, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan invited
The upcoming Winter Olympics are the target of a US-led diplomatic boycott of human rights abuses in China.
But there will still be a gathering of leaders at the Games’ opening ceremony, most with key political or economic ties to China.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was the first foreign leader to confirm his attendance at the Beijing Olympics in September.
The Kremlin strongman has close ties with President Xi Jinping, his “dear friend”.
The two have not met face to face since the start of the pandemic and Xi said in December he was “looking forward” to seeing Putin at the Olympics.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will also visit the Chinese capital.
Pakistan – which shares a border with China – is a strategically important partner for Beijing, including the $54 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project aimed at improving infrastructure, electricity and transport links between its northwestern region of Xinjiang and the Pakistani port of Gwadar.
Mongolia is sending its Prime Minister Luvsannamsrai Oyun-Erdene, on his first trip to China since his appointment in January 2021.
The economy of this landlocked country depends on mineral exports to its giant neighbours, Russia and China.
China will also welcome South Korean National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-Seug at the ceremony.
Middle East and Central Asia
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as well as leaders from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are expected to attend the opening ceremony in Beijing.
Ministers from Gulf states visited China earlier this month as part of Beijing’s efforts to boost ties with the oil-rich region.
A few days after a videoconference with Xi to mark the 30th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, the presidents of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are also expected to visit the Chinese capital.
Three of these Central Asian countries share a border with China.
Southeast Asia and the Pacific
Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, whose country has close ties with China, will also be visiting.
King Sihamoni last visited Beijing in May 2020, amid the coronavirus outbreak in China, for medical treatment.
Cambodia and China have signed a number of infrastructure agreements in recent years, including a recent pledge from Beijing of $250 million for the country’s development projects.
The President of Singapore, Halimah Yacob, as well as Princess Sirindhorn of Thailand and the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, James Marape, will also join the opening ceremony.
Despite testing positive for Covid-19 in early January, Polish President Andrzej Duda is still expected to join the Winter Olympics in February.
China has imposed very strict rules for entering the country – including for anyone previously infected with the virus – but it appears that exceptions are being made for the Games.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, as well as representatives from Luxembourg, Monaco, Azerbaijan and Bosnia and Herzegovina, are also expected to make an appearance at the opening ceremony.
Argentine President Alberto Fernandez said he would take advantage of the Olympics to pay an official visit to China from Feb. 4-6.
Ecuador will also send its president Guillermo Lasso to the opening ceremony.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach arrived in Beijing ahead of the Games and has already met Xi.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres are also among the leaders of global institutions heading to the Games.
Beijing has said UN General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid will take part in the Winter Olympics Torch Relay, which is to be closed to the public due to coronavirus fears.
The United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and Denmark have announced a diplomatic boycott of the Games due to China’s human rights record.
Other countries like Japan do not send officials and have expressed concerns about China’s rights record while avoiding officially announcing that they are part of the boycott.
Some countries like the Netherlands and New Zealand have said they will not send officials due to China’s strict pandemic travel restrictions.
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