China’s Prime Minister Xi Jinping and Australia’s Scott Morrison. Source: tfipost
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  • Australia has followed the US in a formal boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics amid concerns about the human rights abuses of the Uyghur Muslim minority in China
  • Mr Morrison says it should come as “no surprise” that Australia was holding out official representation, mentioning the decline in trade and political relationships over past years
  • Press secretary for the Biden administration Jen Psaki says they would boycott the games in the name of “ongoing genocides” and “crimes against humanity”
  • The spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry Zhao Lijian accused the US of undermining “the foundation and atmosphere” of sports and Olympics cooperation
  • New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson says country officials would not attend the Olympics, highlighting that China was informed of the decision in October

Australia has followed the US in a formal boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics amid concerns about the human rights abuses of the Uyghur Muslim minority in China.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia would ground diplomats and officials but would allow athletes to compete.

Press secretary for the US President Joe Biden administration Jen Psaki said on Monday they would boycott the games in the name of “ongoing genocides” and “crimes against humanity” in Xingjiang.

Mr Morrison said it should come as “no surprise” that Australia was holding out official representation, mentioning the decline in trade and political relationships over past years.

“We have been .. very happy to talk to the Chinese government about these issues and there has been no obstacle to that occurring on our side,” Mr Morrison said.

“But the Chinese government has consistently not accepted those opportunities for us to meet about those issues. So it’s not surprising therefore that Australian government officials would not be going to China for those Games.”

China condems the move

China’s embassy downplayed the significance of Australia’s decision, without responding to Mr Morrison’s human rights claims. A spokesperson said in a statement that the decision “runs counter to [Australia’s] publicly pronounced expectation to improve China-Australia relations”.

“Australia’s success at the Beijing Winter Olympics depends on the performance of Australian athletes, not on the attendance of Australian officials, and the political posturing by some Australian politicians,” they said. 

The spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry Zhao Lijian accused the US of undermining “the foundation and atmosphere” of sports and Olympics cooperation.

American Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez said the boycott was “a necessary step to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to human rights in the face of the Chinese government unconscionable abuses”.

Mr Menendez encouraged “other allies and partners that share our values to join with the United States in this diplomatic boycott”.

New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said country officials would not attend the Olympics, highlighting that China was informed of the decision in October.

Mr Robertson cited COVID-19 as the main concern regarding the decision, saying human rights violations were previously raised by New Zealand.

Coordination Commission Chief for the Beijing Olympics Juan Antonio Samaranch called for politics to be left out of sports.

On behalf of the International Olympic Committee, Mr Samaranch “asks for as much respect possible and least possible interference from the political world”.

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