Australia will join the US in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics over human rights concerns, Australia’s prime minister has said.
Scott Morrison said it should come as no surprise that Australian officials would boycott the event after the nation’s relationship with China had broken down in recent years.
“I’m doing it because it’s in Australia’s national interest,” Mr Morrison said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
He added Australian athletes would still be able to compete.
As well as citing human rights abuses, Mr Morrison said China had been very critical of Australia’s efforts to have a strong defence force in the region “particularly in relation, most recently, to our decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines”.
He said his government was very happy to talk to China about their differences, “but the Chinese government has consistently not accepted those opportunities for us to meet”.
Rights groups have pushed for a full-blown boycott of the games, accusing China of rights abuses against ethnic minorities.
The US and Australian decisions fall short of those calls but come at an exceptionally turbulent time for international relations and have been met with a barrage of criticism from China.
Matt Carroll, the Australian Olympic Committee’s chief executive, said the arrangements for the 40 or so Australian athletes expected to compete at the games would not be impacted by Mr Morrison’s announcement.
“Getting the athletes to Beijing safely, competing safely and bringing them home safely remains our greatest challenge,” he said in a statement.
“Our Australian athletes have been training and competing with this Olympic dream for four years now and we are doing everything in our power to ensure we can help them succeed.”
Canada will also join the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics over human rights concerns, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.
Relations between Canada and China have been poor since China arrested two Canadians in China in December 2018, shortly after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer and the daughter of the company’s founder, on a US extradition request.
Many countries labelled China’s action “hostage politics” while China described the charges against Huawei and Meng as a politically motivated attempt to hold back China’s economic and technological development.