Australia joins Winter Olympics diplomatic boycott over China’s human rights abuses

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday that Australia will join the U.S. in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Games over human rights concerns.

A woman walks past the Beijing 2022 logo that is seen outside the headquarters of the Beijing Organising Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Shougang Park.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday that Australia will join the U.S. in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Games over human rights concerns.

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.”

Advertising
Advertising

He said Australian athletes would still be able to compete.

As well as citing human rights abuses, Morrison said China had been very critical of Australia’s efforts to have a strong defence force in the region “particularly in relation, most recently, to our decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.”

He said his government was very happy to talk to China about their differences.

RELATED| IOC says it respects U.S. decision on Beijing 2022 Games

RELATED| China says US diplomatic boycott violates Olympic spirit

RELATED| Kremlin slams US Olympics boycott, says Games should be 'free of politics'

“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,” Morrison said.

Rights groups have pushed for a full-blown boycott of the games, accusing China of rights abuses against ethnic minorities. The U.S. and Australian decisions fall short of those calls but come at an exceptionally turbulent time for international relations and have been met with a barrage of criticism from China.

The Australian Olympic Committee said the arrangements for the 40 or so Australian athletes expected to compete at the games would not be impacted by Morrison’s announcement.

“Getting the athletes to Beijing safely, competing safely and bringing them home safely remains our greatest challenge,” said Matt Carroll, the committee’s chief executive.

“Our Australian athletes have been training and competing with this Olympic dream for four years now, and we are doing everything in our power to ensure we can help them succeed,” Carroll said in a statement.

UK plans diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday no U.K. government minister will attend the Beijing Winter Olympics, calling it “effectively” a diplomatic boycott.

Johnson was asked in the House of Commons whether the U.K. will join the United States, Australia and Lithuania in a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games in February over Beijing's human rights record.

READ: New Zealand won't send diplomats to Beijing Olympics, cites COVID-19  

He said he opposed boycotts involving athletes, but Britain would effectively be boycotting the Olympics diplomatically.

“There will be effectively a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing," Johnson told lawmakers. “No ministers are expected to attend and no officials."

’The government has no hesitation in raising these issues with China, as I did with President Xi the last time I talked to him," he added.

The White House confirmed Monday that it was staging a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing to protest Chinese human rights abuses. China has vowed to react with “firm countermeasures.”

Western governments, including the U.S., Australia and Britain, have increasingly criticized Beijing for human rights abuses against its Uyghur minority in the northwest Xinjiang province, which some have called genocide. They have also spoken out against Beijing's suppression of democratic protests in Hong Kong. Rights groups have called for a full-blown boycott of the Beijing Winter Games.

It wasn't immediately clear whether Britain's royal family could still attend the 2022 Games. Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth II's daughter, was an Olympic equestrian and is president of the British Olympic Association.