Czech PM says will skip Beijing Olympics: report

Czech Republic's Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek is seen at a news briefing at the Government Office in Hanoi March 21, 2008. REUTERS/Kham

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek will skip the Beijing Olympics, daily Pravo said on Wednesday, adding to a chorus of Western leaders who have spoken out about China’s record on Tibet and human rights.

Topolanek said he did not want the opening ceremony to serve as a celebration of the strength and greatness of Communist China, the paper reported.

“I will not go to Beijing,” it quoted him as saying in a discussion with students. “I am not in favor of a boycott by athletes, but I believe this can go on without me.”

The ex-communist country’s centre-right government often defends democratic opposition groups around the world and has sharply criticized the Chinese for how it handled March riots by Tibetans in the provincial capital Lhasa.

It has called on the Chinese to allow foreign media access to the province and invite the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, to a dialogue on Tibet’s future.

Western governments have also criticized China for the Tibet crackdown, and U.S. and EU politicians have called for a boycott of the games’ opening ceremony if China does not talk with the Dailai Lama.

Topolanek said he had a personal reason as well to skip the Olympics.

“(My spouse) Lucie Talmanova is a member of a friends of Tibet group, so I could not do that to her,” Pravo quoted him as saying.

Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Michael Winfrey