Australia joins US in diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Games over human rights concerns

Diplomatic boycott will not affect athletes, says Australian Olympic Committee

Sravasti Dasgupta
Wednesday 08 December 2021 06:43
<p>Australian prime minister Scott Morrison</p>

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison

Australia will join the US in a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics scheduled in China next year to protest the country’s human rights record.

“The human rights abuses in Xinjiang and many other issues that Australia has consistently raised, we have been very pleased and very happy to talk to the Chinese government about these issues,” prime minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday. “But the Chinese government has consistently not accepted those opportunities for us to meet about these issues.”

A diplomatic boycott is intended as a protest against the Chinese government without preventing athletes from competing.

Mr Morrison added that the decision to boycott the Games was also in part due to China’s criticisms of Australia’s efforts to have a strong defence force in the region, particularly in relation “to our decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines”.

“So it is not surprising therefore that Australian government officials would not be going to China for those Games,” Mr Morrison said. “I’m doing it because it’s in Australia’s national interest. It’s the right thing to do.”

On Monday, the US said no government official will participate in the global sporting event scheduled for February, as it joined a global chorus for a diplomatic boycott of China.

“The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, given [China’s] ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, and other human rights abuses,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

The Australian Olympic Committee said that the diplomatic boycott will not affect athletes.

“Getting the athletes to Beijing safely, competing safely and bringing them home safely remains our greatest challenge,” said Matt Carroll, Australian Olympic committee’s chief executive. “Our Australian athletes have been training and competing with this Olympic dream for four years now and we are doing everything in our power to ensure we can help them succeed.”

The Chinese Embassy in a statement on Wednesday lashed out at the Australian government and blamed it for the breakdown of relations between Beijing and Canberra.

“Australia’s success at the Beijing Winter Olympics depends on the performance of Australian athletes, not on the attendance of Australian officials, and the political posturing by some Australian politicians,” the statement said.

“As we all know, the blame for the current predicament of China-Australia relations lies squarely on the Australian side,” the Embassy said.

“China once again urges the Australian side to take practical measures to create favourable conditions for improving bilateral relations. The Australian side’s statement that it will not send officials to the Beijing Winter Olympics runs counter to its publicly pronounced expectation to improve China-Australia relations,” it added.

Activists have said the Games in China will take place amid “one of the world’s worst crackdowns against freedom, democracy and human rights.”

A coalition of at least 86 global human rights bodies have joined the “#NoBeijing2022” campaign, saying China’s “unrelenting crackdown across China, Tibet, East Turkestan, Southern Mongolia and Hong Kong has deepened under President Xi Jinping”.

Additional reporting by agencies

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