Prince Charles has refused to attend the Beijing Olympics in China this summer.

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The prince announced he will not appear at the sporting event’s opening ceremony in August in a letter to campaigners who believe the sporting event will obscure China’s poor human rights record.

The letter to the Free Tibet Campaign from the prince’s deputy private secretary Clive Alderton said: “You asked if the prince would be attending the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. His Royal Highness will not be attending the ceremony.”

The prince’s staff have also reportedly made it clear Charles will not be attending the games at any stage. Members of the Free Tibet Campaign promote the rights of citizens in Tibet – which is currently part of the People’s Republic of China – to determine their own government.

Campaigners are now planning to use the prince’s decision to persuade other prominent figures to boycott the Beijing Olympics. China’s reputation has suffered in recent years because of the frequent imprisonment of journalists and those defending human rights, as well as the widespread use of capital punishment.

Prince Charles is known to be an admirer of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan’s spiritual leader who has been in exile since an uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

A Clarence House spokesman said: “Visits abroad are taken on the advice of the Foreign Office. We never discuss in detail any request that has been made or not made.”