New Delhi: Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday that Australia will not send officials to the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February, joining a US diplomatic boycott of the Games.
Morrison said Canberra’s decision stems from “disagreement” with China on a number of matters, ranging from Australia’s foreign influence rules to a recent effort to buy nuclear-powered submarines.
He also highlighted the Xinjiang region’s human rights violations and Beijing’s suspension of ministerial engagement with Australia.
“Australia will not step back from the strong position we’ve had standing up for Australia’s interests and obviously it is of no surprise that we wouldn’t be sending Australian officials to those Games,” Morrison was quoted by AFP in its report.
China-Australia Relations Have Deteriorated Dramatically
In recent years, Australia’s relations with China have deteriorated dramatically, with Beijing imposing a slew of punitive restrictions on Australian commodities as part of a bitter political conflict that has thrown relations into the worst crisis since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
China is enraged by Australia’s willingness to pass legislation prohibiting foreign influence activities, block Huawei from 5G contracts, and demand an independent probe into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak.
Australia’s recent decision to equip its navy with nuclear-powered submarines as part of a new military deal with the United Kingdom and the United States — largely perceived as an attempt to offset Chinese hegemony in the Pacific — enraged Beijing even more.
‘US Athletes Will Compete In Olympics, But Won’t Send Govt Officials To The Events’
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki indicated earlier this week that while US athletes will compete in the Olympics, the administration would not send any government officials to the events.
According to CNN, the decision represents an increase in US pressure on China in response to claims of forced labour and human rights violations in Xinjiang, notably against the Uyghur minority group.
During a White House briefing, Psaki said the US wants to send a “clear message” that China’s human rights violations imply “business as usual” can’t continue.
IOC Respects US Decision To Boycott Beijing Winter Olympic Games
Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has stated that it “fully respects” the US government’s decision to boycott the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing in 2022.
In a statement issued on Monday, IOC said, “The presence of government officials and diplomats is a purely political decision for each government, which the IOC in its political neutrality fully respects. At the same time, this announcement also makes clear that the Olympic Games and the participation of the athletes are beyond politics, and we welcome this.”
(With inputs from Agencies)
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