Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended the 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Sochi, Russia with President Vladimir Putin in hopes of strengthening ties with the country.
Russia is known for numerous human rights violations, the latest a law that bans pro-gay propaganda to minors. Basic human rights are not significant in China or Japan, and the Chinese media barely mentioned the law while talking about the games. It is also common for China and Russia to team up against the West when it comes to global affairs.
Russia and China have frequently joined forces in the United Nations and elsewhere to challenge Western leadership in global affairs. They have also found common cause in coming under criticism from Western governments, media and human rights groups. During the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008, China faced many complaints about the stifling of dissent.
“The West has constantly found fault with Russia’s holding of the games,” China’s state-run newspaper Global Times said in an editorial Friday. It added that the criticism underscores the connection between the two countries.
Abe is attending the games because of territorial issues, not human rights. There are four islands just north of Japan that Russia seized a few days before Japan surrendered in World War II. They forced 17,000 Japanese to leave and left the islands uninhabited. The two countries never signed a peace treaty.
“While developing Japan-Russia ties as a whole, we have to finally solve the biggest so-far unresolved issue, that is the Northern Territories issue, and to sign the peace treaty with Russia,” said Abe addressing the gathering in Tokyo.
“This is why I will engage in tenacious negotiations with Russia,” Abe added, speaking from a stage with the slogan “Return the Four Northern Islands” and the Japanese flag at his back.
Japan’s Foreign Ministry said they pay close attention to Russia’s human rights violations, but as a whole the country is not up to date like the West.
In Japan, awareness about minority rights — not just for gays, but also for migrant workers and ethnic Koreans — lags behind the West, said Sonoko Kawakami, campaign manager for Amnesty International Japan.
“The prime minister’s actions reflect that,” she said.
President Barack Obama will not attend the Olympics. Other non-attendees include French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, German President Joachim Gauck and Brazilian President Dilma Russeff.