Australia announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics 2 days after US move

Similar to the U.S.' decision, Australian athletes are still free to compete in the event.

Jean Chien Tay | December 08, 2021, 02:26 PM

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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics on Dec. 8, about two days after the U.S.' announcement, the BBC reported.

Similar to the U.S.' reasoning, Morrison said the boycott was due to the "human rights abuses" in China's Xinjiang province and "many other issues" that China has refused to address, according to Bloomberg.

The 53-year-old said "it shouldn't be a surprise" that Australia will not be sending official representatives to the sporting event.

According to the BBC, Morrison said it was "the right thing to do", and added that he was doing it "because it's in Australia's national interest".

The diplomatic boycott does not bar athletes from competing in the event, The Guardian reported.

“Australia’s a great sporting nation and I very much separate the issues of sport and these other political issues," Morrison added.

Consistently raised human rights issues in Xinjiang

Morrison said his government has consistently raised Xinjiang's human rights issues and many other issues, and have been "very pleased and very happy" to discuss those issues with the Chinese government, Bloomberg reported.

However, he said that China has so far "not accepted" opportunities for discussion.

Although the Australian premier expressed his wishes for tensions between the two countries to ease, he said his government has no intention to “step back from the strong position we had standing up for Australia’s interest”, The Guardian reported.

Responding to queries on whether he expected any retaliation from China, Morrison said any retaliation would be “completely and utterly unacceptable" and there would be "no grounds" for those actions.

Stressing that Australia would continue to pursue policies that align with its national interest, Morrison added that the country is open to dialogue with China on matters such as Australia's foreign interference laws and foreign investment regulations.

Opposition voiced support

The opposition Australian Labor Party also voiced their support for the diplomatic boycott, adding that they were deeply concerned about rights abuses in China, according to The Guardian.

They further raised their concerns over the safety of athletes, due to the recent controversy surrounding Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, who was allegedly unable to establish direct contact with her friends outside of China.

“This decision, alongside other countries’ diplomatic boycotts, sends a strong signal that these are not the behaviours of a responsible global power," representatives of the party said.

They added that it was "appropriate" that athletes were not barred from competing, as they have "trained hard for years". Furthermore, they also had no part in the choice of venue for the sporting event.

Chinese embassy in Australia responds

Responding to Australia's diplomatic boycott, the Chinese embassy in Canberra accused Australian politicians of “political posturing”, The Guardian reported.

The embassy also said Australian government officials were not invited in the first place -- a comment that a Chinese official previously said when responding to the U.S.' diplomatic boycott.

“China has not invited any Australian government officials to attend the Winter Olympics, and no one would care about whether they come or not,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin added.

New Zealand not sending diplomatic representatives

Meanwhile, New Zealand also said on Dec. 7 that it will not be sending diplomatic representatives to the Beijing Winter Olympics, according to Bloomberg.

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said there was "a range of factors" behind the decision, and it was mainly due to Covid-19.

Robertson said that China was informed of the decision in October.

He also mentioned that the New Zealand administration have communicated their concerns about human rights issues to China on "numerous occasions".

Japan yet to decide

According to Bloomberg, Japan is considering sending lower-level officials to the event.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reportedly said that his government has yet to make a decision on the matter, and that the country will act according to its national interests.

U.S. announced diplomatic boycott on Dec. 6

Previously on Dec. 6, the U.S. confirmed that it will be staging a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, according to Bloomberg.

American athletes are still free to compete in the event, but the Biden administration will not be sending any diplomatic representatives to China for the event.

According to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, the Biden administration's decision was due to "China's ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, and other human rights abuses".

In response, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that U.S. politicians were hyping the possibility of a boycott before they even received an invitation for the sporting event.

Zhao said the U.S. has offended the people of China, and added that China will take "necessary and resolute countermeasures" if the U.S. insists on "going down the wrong path".

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