Australia to join diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics

Dec 08 , 2021. 8 minutes ago – 13:18 KYODO NEWS

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. (Getty/Kyodo)

SYDNEY – Australia will not send government officials to next year’s Beijing Olympics, the country’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday, joining the United States in a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games.

Morrison told reporters in Sydney he decided to bar officials from attending as his government has been rebuffed in its attempts to discuss with China its alleged human rights abuses in its far-western Xinjiang region, as well as various other issues of concern.

“So it is not surprising, therefore, that Australian government officials would therefore not be going to China for those games,” said Morrison. “Australian athletes will, though.”

Relations between China and Australia have been strained in recent times by trade and other tensions including Canberra’s calls for an investigation into the origins of the COVID-19-causing coronavirus.

Beijing has enacted a freeze on all ministerial-level meetings between the two countries and imposed tariffs on a number of Australian exports such as coal, beef and wine.

When questioned over the potential for political or economic retaliation from China over the boycott, Morrison said it would be “completely and utterly unacceptable, and there would be no grounds for that whatsoever.”

The Australian Olympic Committee said it welcomes the government’s announcement that athletes will be permitted to compete at the Beijing Olympics, adding that a delegation from the 2032 Brisbane Summer Olympics organizers would also attend.

In responding to Canberra’s decision, China’s embassy in Australia said the blame for the current status of bilateral relations lies squarely on the Australian side.

“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,” the embassy said in a statement.

On Monday, the administration of President Joe Biden said the United States would not send diplomatic representation to the Beijing Olympics, which are set to open on Feb. 4, 2022.

Beijing immediately responded, criticizing the United States for using the Olympics as a stage for political shows and manipulation.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he would make a decision on the matter in consideration of his nation’s national interest and the significance of the event.

New Zealand on Tuesday also said it would not send diplomatic representatives to the Olympic Games, citing a range of issues but mostly to do with concerns over the further spread of COVID-19.

A woman walks by an illustrated board promoting the Beijing Winter Olympics in the capital on Dec. 7, 2021. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo