Australia joins US diplomatic boycott of 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

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Following the announcement by the US government of a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, Australia announces it will not be sending officials to China for the games.

Confirming the diplomatic boycott, Prime Minister Scott Morrison raised “human rights abuses” in Xinjiang as one of the factors and “many other issues that Australia has consistently raised”.

The prime minister said Australian athletes will still attend, adding, “Australia’s a great sporting nation and I very much separate the issues of sport and these other political issues.”

China has condemned the US announcement and threatened to retaliate, without giving further details.

On Monday, the US said it would not send diplomats to the Games in Beijing over concerns about China’s human rights record.

Mr. Morrison said it was “no surprise” that Australia had joined the boycott, given relations with China had deteriorated in recent years.

“I’m doing it because it’s in Australia’s national interest,” he said on Wednesday. “It’s the right thing to do.”

He accused China of rejecting opportunities to improve relations, insisting Australia remained open to bilateral talks.

At a media briefing on Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian accused the US of violating “political neutrality in sport” and said the proposed boycott was “based on lies and rumours”.

Tensions are high between both countries. The US has accused China of genocide in its repression of the predominantly Muslim Uyghur minority in the western region of Xinjiang – an allegation China has strongly denied.

Relations are also strained over China’s suppression of political freedoms in Hong Kong, and because of concerns for the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who was not seen for weeks after she accused a top government official of assault.

Canberra has increasingly come to view China as a security threat amid allegations that Beijing has interfered in Australian politics and society.

It has also raised concerns over two Australian citizens who remain imprisoned in China.

Pro-democracy writer Yang Hengjun has denied charges of espionage and allegedly faced torture since his arrest in January 2019. Journalist Cheng Lei has been held without charge since August last year.

Other countries – including Canada and Japan – are also said to be considering diplomatic boycotts of the Games. New Zealand has confirmed it will not send officials due to Covid concerns.

The Australian Olympic Committee said it supported its government’s move but was keen to ensure safety for its approximately 40 athletes. (Source: BBC)

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