Australia will not send officials or politicians to China for the Winter Olympics in a rebuke of Beijing over its human rights record, with a final decision on whether to launch a full diplomatic boycott to be made within days.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is weighing up whether to follow United States President Joe Biden’s administration in announcing a full diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics, which China labelled “a pretentious act” and warned of “countermeasures”.
The Morrison government will announce within days whether it will sign up to a full diplomatic boycott.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
Several senior government sources, who were not authorised to speak publicly, confirmed Australia would send some kind of signal to China over its human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong and the treatment of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai.
It has already been decided no Australian-based officials or politicians will attend the Beijing Olympics in February next year, and Canberra has refused to sign the Olympic Truce to also send a message to Beijing. But the government is still considering whether Australia’s ambassador to China, Graham Fletcher, and other embassy staff will attend events and whether to publicly call it a diplomatic boycott.
Canada, Britain and several other European countries are also considering a diplomatic boycott, which involves not sending a delegation of officials but allowing athletes to participate.
Australia is expected to announce its position in the coming days.
Before the US made its announcement on Tuesday (Australian time), China had already been getting ahead of potential boycotts by not inviting officials and politicians. Australian government sources confirmed there were already questions over whether Mr Fletcher, the nation’s top diplomat in China, would be able to attend events.
China’s embassy in Washington said the Biden administration’s move came “out of nowhere” because no invitation had been extended to US politicians.
“Such a pretentious act is only a political manipulation and a grave distortion of the spirit of the Olympic Charter,” embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the US’s decision had been taken in light of China’s “ongoing genocide” and “crimes against humanity” in the far-western province of Xinjiang.
“We have a fundamental commitment to promoting human rights, and we feel strongly in our position and we will continue to take actions to advance human rights in China and beyond,” she said.
Labor senator Kimberley Kitching said it would be against Australia’s values, as well those upon which the Olympic Games was founded, to not make a stand against “the spectre of unconscionable human rights abuses occurring in China”.
“Our great ally and friend, the United States has announced a diplomatic boycott. I think democracies must do this, as history teaches us that it is democracies that stand up for human rights and for democratic values,” she said.
“Beginning with the 2024 Summer Olympics, human rights obligations will be a part of the Host City Contract, and this is most welcome.”
Liberal senator Eric Abetz said with the US formally announcing its diplomatic boycott, it was essential that Australia follow and take a strong stand against the China’s “litany of human rights abuses”.
“The decision by the United States, our close ally and friend, to diplomatically boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics is a most welcome move and … Australia must follow suit,” he said.
“Australia must not be complacent but move with speed to demonstrate our long commitment to upholding human rights and calling out where they are breached.
“From the Uighurs, organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience, slave labour, the Hong Kongers, the Tibetans, the Mongolians, the Dalai Lama, debt-trap diplomacy, the South China Sea Islands, religious and journalistic persecution to all other grave injustices committed by the CCP dictatorship means we must not give official representation at these Games.”
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