CNN International’s iReporter Joey Peroze (@joey_peroze) was in Beijing for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to China.
Beijing, China (CNN) — Justin Trudeau has announced that more than a dozen senior Canadian officials will boycott the Winter Olympics in Beijing later this year.
Citing human rights concerns, Trudeau said the decision was “a very difficult choice” but one which was taken in the best interests of Canada.
The move is an unusually public international appeal by a Western leader to boost global criticism of China’s ruling Communist Party, which has grown more repressive under President Xi Jinping.
It comes a week after the Canadian government announced charges against two Chinese nationals and detained a third in what the United States called “serious human rights violations.”
READ MORE: A guide to Canada’s trade relations with China
Trudeau announced Wednesday (April 10) the planned boycott at a news conference in Beijing. There he also announced that the Canadian government has begun national dialogues with China on human rights and democracy.
“The Olympics is an international sporting event, it’s not a political one,” he said. “We’ve decided to boycott the opening ceremonies in solidarity with our allies that are expressing political concerns about what we believe to be human rights abuses in China.”
Experts have said human rights issues have become key election issues in Canada and they have fed public anger toward the Trudeau government.
A large majority of Canadians — more than 75% — told pollsters they have an unfavorable view of China, a sharp increase from the 46% who felt that way in 2002, according to a Pew Research Center study. The animosity was even higher among Canadians who are not Asian.
China has been a staunch supporter of the Trudeau government, which faces major political risks in light of its tough foreign policy positions on trade with the United States.
Last year, Trudeau’s parents were expelled from China after asserting their right to stay.
Follow Jenny Ramsden on Twitter @jennyramsandcnn