Australia will not send officials to the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday, joining a US diplomatic boycott of the event and risking a further souring of relations with China.
The United States announced its boycott on Monday, citing China’s human rights “atrocities”, fuelling anger in China, which warned of “resolute countermeasures” in response.
Despite the threat, Morrison said Canberra will join the diplomatic boycott.
“Australian government officials (will), therefore, not be going to China for those Games. Australian athletes will, though,” Morrison told reporters in Sydney.
The formal boycott risks further straining Australia’s relations with China, its largest trading partner, which soured after Canberra introduced foreign interference laws, banned Huawei Technologies from its
broadband network, and called for an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19. A recent decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS pact has added to the tension.
Morrison also cited alleged human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region and Beijing’s unwillingness to meet Australian officials for talks as key to the decision to boycott.
“There’s been no obstacle to that occurring on our side, but the Chinese government has consistently not accepted those opportunities for us to meet about these issues,” he said.
Beijing has imposed punitive tariffs on several Australian commodities and products, including coal, beef, barley and wine.
Morrison said any further trade disruptions would be “completely and utterly unacceptable”.
The Winter Olympics begin in February next year. The Australian Olympic Committee said the diplomatic boycott will have no impact on the expected 40 Australian athletes who are set to compete.
“This is something that will spread around the world,” Andrew Woodward, a former media adviser to the Sydney Olympics, told reporters. “There are multinational alliances and they will come to the fore, but what I don’t think anyone wants to see happen is a boycott of the Olympics from an athletic point of view. Think of how the world came together for the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year and the joy that brought many, many people. Certainly there are many human rights issues in China to address but on the whole it is better to keep the sport and politics separate here.”
A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that his government had yet to decide on whether representatives would attend the games.
The right-wing Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday that officials were considering limited government attendance that would stop short of a full-on diplomatic boycott.
New Zealand earlier said its government representatives would not attend, citing the coronavirus pandemic.
Source: News Agency