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Hua Hin
Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Australia joins US in diplomatic boycott of Beijing Games

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.

Many key U.S. allies have hesitated follow the U.S. move, but on Wednesday, Australia said it would join the diplomatic boycott.  President Joe Biden’s administration cited what the United States calls genocide against minority Muslims in China’s far western region of Xinjiang. China denies all rights abuses.

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.

Morrison said it should come as no surprise that Australian officials would boycott the event after the nation’s relationship with China had broken down in recent years.

“I’m doing it because it’s in Australia’s national interest,” Morrison said. “It’s the right thing to do.” He said Australian athletes would still be able to compete.

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 5G 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.

At least two Australians are currently being detained in China, with journalist Cheng Lei held for more than a year and academic Yang Jun on trial for espionage.

Morrison said Canberra officials had “always been open” to talks with Beijing, but those attempts had been rebuffed.

“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.

Morrison said any further trade disruptions would be “completely and utterly unacceptable”.

The Winter Olympics begin in February next year.

A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that his government has yet to decide on whether representatives would attend the games.

The Australian Olympic Committee said the diplomatic boycott will have no impact on the expected 40 Australian athletes who are set to compete.

Editorial Staff
Author: Editorial Staff

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