The leaders of Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada announced Wednesday that they will join the United States in a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced at a news conference in Sydney that the government would retain its official officials at home, despite the fact that Australian athletes will compete in the Games in February.
“Human rights abuses and issues in Xinjiang” were among the concerns aired by the Australian government with Beijing, according to Morrison.
“I am very … happy to talk to the Chinese government about these issues, and there has been no obstacle to that occurring on our side but the Chinese government has consistently not taken those opportunities to meet with us about those issues,” he said.
Later Wednesday, the UK and Canada joined Australia in announcing that their embassies and officials will not be attending the Games.
“There will be effectively a diplomatic boycott… there will be a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. No ministers are expected to attend ” Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, stated in the House of Commons.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a diplomatic boycott of the Games, saying he was “extremely concerned by the repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government.”
Activists have been calling for a boycott of the Games for months, citing the Chinese government’s violations of human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, as well as its political repression in Hong Kong.
The United States and other Western countries have accused Beijing of imprisoning more over a million Muslim-majority Uyghurs in Xinjiang detention camps, where some former detainees claim they were tortured, raped, or sterilised forcibly.
Beijing disputes the allegations, saying that the camps are reeducation centres aimed at combating separatism and Islamist terrorism in the far west.
The Chinese embassy in Australia criticized Canberra’s decision to boycott the Games on Wednesday, saying it will aggravate already strained ties between the two countries.
“As we all know, the blame for the current predicament of China-Australia relations lies squarely on the Australian side,” the statement said.
“No one would care whether they come or not,” Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a news conference on Wednesday.
“Australian politicians’ political stunt for selfish gains has no impact whatsoever on the Olympics to be successfully held by Beijing,” he said.
While the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stated in January that granting the Games to a country did not imply that it agreed with its “human rights standards,” critics claimed that handing the high-profile event to China gave the ruling Communist Party more legitimacy.
The initiatives by Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada follow the Biden administration’s decision on Monday not to send an official US delegation to the Games, making the United States the first country to confirm a diplomatic boycott.
The US boycott, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, is a protest against China’s “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.”
Following the US decision, China’s Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday that it has begun “solemn representation” with Washington and promised to take “resolute countermeasures,” though it did not specify what those countermeasures would be.
The 2028 Summer Olympics will be held in Los Angeles, while the 2032 Games will be held in Brisbane, Australia.
Morrison said Australia is a wonderful athletic nation and wished the IOC the best of luck for the Beijing Winter Games on Wednesday.
“I very much separate the issues of sport and the issues that are between two governments … Australia will not step back from the strong position it’s had, standing up for Australians’ interests,” Morrison said.