Australia will stage a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, mirroring a similar move by the United States.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the boycott Wednesday in Canberra, citing a range of issues including accusations of human rights abuses against China and Beijing’s refusal to hold bilateral talks to resolve lingering trade and diplomatic disputes.
A diplomatic boycott means that no Australian officials will attend any Beijing Olympics events, but its athletes will still be allowed to participate.
Relations between Australia and China have turned sour in recent years, beginning when Canberra banned Chinese-based tech giant Huawei from building its new 5G broadband network. Relations took a turn for the worse over Australia’s push for an independent probe into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was first detected in late 2019 in central China.
Beijing has retaliated by imposing heavy tariffs on Australia’s barley exports, and imposed tight restrictions on exports of wine, beef and other commodities. China is also angered by Australia’s recent decision to purchase nuclear-powered submarines as part of a new defense pact with Britain and the United States.
Prime Minister Morrison said “there has been no obstacle” on Australia’s side to hold talks with China on these matters, but he stressed his country “will not step back from the strong position we’ve had standing up for Australia’s interests.”
“Obviously it is of no surprise that we wouldn’t be sending Australian officials to those Games,” Morrison added.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin dismissed Morrison’s announcement, telling reporters “nobody cares” whether or not Australian officials attend the Olympics.
Matt Carroll, the chief executive of the Australian Olympic Committee, said the organization’s main focus is “getting the athletes to Beijing safely, competing safely and bringing them home safely.”
The administration of President Joe Biden announced Monday it would be staging a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, which will run between February 4 to 20.
President Biden said last month he was considering a diplomatic boycott because of criticism of China’s human rights abuses, including the detention of Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang province and the crackdown on pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong.
Beijing has vowed to take “countermeasures” against Washington over the boycott.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.