Canberra: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison informed reporters in Canberra on Tuesday that Australia would be making a 'diplomatic boycott' of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics on account of human rights abuses in the nation. While Australian athletes will attend, no diplomatic representation will be sent from the country, Morrison said.
The move comes shortly after the US announced an identical boycott with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki citing China's poor track record with human rights as well as the boiling controversy over the alleged genocide of its Uighur minority population.
President Morrison said that Australia's boycott only reflected the state of declining relationships with Beijing and that China had not made any official available in order to discuss Australia's doubts over the human rights abuses conducted in Xinjiang.
Australian opposition parties have also come out in support of the decision with the Labor Party's foreign affairs spokesperson, Penny Wong, and sports spokesman Don Farrell bringing up the case of Chinese tennis star Peng Shui who has allegedly disappeared after accusing a senior Chinese government official of sexual harassment.
The Australian Olympic Committee cautiously welcomed Morrison's decision and said that sports and politics were best kept separate. Committee chief executive Matt Carroll said that Australian athletes were the priority as they had been training very hard for the event.
Human Rights Watch and other human rights advocacy groups have welcomed the decision although Beijing is not expected to take it well as Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian had declared the US boycott as mere "political posturing" which would attract severe "countermeasures". Australian products have already been the focus of Chinese sanctions.
Some foreign policy experts have described Australia's bolder stances on national interest as a sign of US backing, which led to the signing of the billion-dollar AUKUS pact in November. Under the defence deal, the US, UK and Australia have agreed to share military technology and information, with Australia also receiving nuclear-powered submarines.