Australia joins US diplomatic boycott at Beijing Winter Olympics

Australia will not send any government representative to the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, joining the diplomatic boycott declared Monday by the United States, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Wednesday (December 8th).

Boycott of the Olympic Games: a look back at the pass of arms between Washington and Beijing

Canberra’s decision comes against a backdrop of ” disagreement “ with China on a number of issues ranging from Australian foreign interference laws to the recent decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, Morrison said.

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“Everyone does not care whether they come or not”, replied the spokesperson for Chinese diplomacy on Wednesday. “Their political politics and their little games will not change the success of the Olympic Games. “

” Bad shot “

In his reasons for implementing this diplomatic boycott, Scott Morrison also mentioned Beijing’s reluctance to meet with Australian officials for talks and human rights violations in the Xinjiang region, that region. autonomous region of northwestern China, where the Turkish Uighur minority resides.

“Australia will not go back on the strong stance it has taken to defend its interests, and it is obviously not surprising that we do not send Australian officials to these Games”, did he declare.

Deportations, rapes, cultural genocide: the endless tragedy of the Uighur people

This decision, which does not prevent the athletes from participating in the Games, comes two days after the announcement by the United States of their “Diplomatic boycott” in the name of the defense of human rights, more particularly the situation in Xinjiang which Washington considers a genocide of the Uighur minority. Beijing immediately retorted that “The United States will pay the price for their bad move”.

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One million Uighurs imprisoned in Xinjiang

Human rights groups have hailed Canberra’s decision. Sophie Richardson, director of Human Rights Watch in China, called her“Crucial step towards calling into question the crimes against humanity committed by the Chinese government against the Uighurs and other Turkish communities”.

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According to activists, at least one million Uighurs and other Turkish-speaking minorities, mainly Muslims, are being held in camps in Xinjiang. China is accused of forcibly sterilizing women there and imposing forced labor.

Beijing says the camps are in fact vocational training centers intended to keep their residents away from radicalization.

Sino-Australian relations deteriorated

Relations between Australia and China have deteriorated sharply in recent years. China has taken a series of sanctions on Australian products amid a political conflict that plunged bilateral relations into their worst crisis since Tiananmen (1989).

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China has been particularly irritated by Australia’s measures regarding foreign interference, the ban on awarding 5G contracts to Huawei, and the demand for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Australia’s decision to equip its navy with nuclear-powered submarines as part of a new defense pact with Britain and the United States, widely seen as an attempt to counter Chinese influence in the Pacific region, also aroused the ire of Beijing.

In addition, at least two Australians are currently detained in China: journalist Cheng Lei for more than a year, and academic Yang Jun, on trial for espionage.

Distinguish between sport and politics

Scott Morrison assured that Canberra “Has always been open” talks with Beijing, but that his attempts were rejected by the economic giant. “The Chinese government has never accepted that we meet to discuss these issues”, he said.

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“Australia’s statement that it will not send officials to the Olympics goes against its publicly expressed expectation of improving China-Australia relations.”, for his part said a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Canberra in a statement.

“Australia is a great sporting nation and I make a very clear distinction between sporting and political issues. These are issues between two governments. And I would like these questions to be resolved ”, argued Scott Morrison.

The safety of the athletes, a priority for the organizers

Asked at a press briefing on Wednesday, Chinese diplomacy spokesman Wang Wenbin assured that his country had never intended to invite senior Australian officials.

Canberra’s decision “Shows everyone that the Australian government is blindly following in the footsteps of a certain country”, said Wang Wenbin, without naming the United States.

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For its part, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) said it respected the government’s decision, adding that it would not impact the Australian team’s preparations.

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“Getting athletes to Beijing safely, getting them to compete safely and getting them home safely remains our biggest challenge. […] given the complexity of the environment linked to the coronavirus ”, underlined its general manager Matt Carroll.

Around 40 Australian athletes are expected to compete in the Beijing Games, which open on February 4.

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