Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Wednesday that Australia will join the United States in a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, as other allies considered similar actions to protest China’s human rights record.
The US said on Monday that its government representatives will boycott the Beijing Olympics due to China’s human rights “atrocities,” only weeks after the two nations held talks aimed at calming tensions. China warned that the US will “pay the price” for its decision, and that it would respond with “decisive countermeasures.”
Morrison cited Australia’s attempts to reestablish diplomatic channels with China to discuss alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, as well as Beijing’s efforts to slow and prevent imports of Australian goods, as reasons for the decision. Other allies have been hesitant to join the diplomatic embargo.
Britain is considering sanctioning restricted government attendance at the Beijing Olympics from February 4 to 20, which would avoid a full diplomatic boycott. According to the article, an outright ban on ministerial and diplomatic participation at the Winter Games is still a possible.
After the United States declared its diplomatic boycott, Japan’s Sankei Shimbun daily reported on Wednesday that it is considering not sending cabinet members to the Beijing Winter Olympics.
The administration of President Joe Biden referenced what the US terms genocide against minority Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region in the far west. China rejects all human rights violations.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said his country opposes the US diplomatic boycott and threatened “resolute countermeasures” in response. “The United States will pay a price for its blunder,” he warned, without elaborating. “Let’s just see what happens.”
The Winter Games would begin approximately six months after the Summer Games in Tokyo, which were postponed a year due to the Covid-19 epidemic.
“We always ask for as much respect and as little intervention from the political sphere as possible,” said Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC’s Beijing Olympics coordination commission chief. “We have to be on the same page. Political choices made by political entities are respected by us.”
The United States is preparing a bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, and will host the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
When asked if China would consider a diplomatic boycott of the United States’ Olympic Games, Zhao said the boycott has “hurt the foundation and environment” of Olympic sports interchange and cooperation. The US diplomatic boycott, which has been supported by some members of Congress and human rights organisations for months, comes despite efforts to normalise relations between the world’s two largest economies, including a video meeting between Vice President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping last month.