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The Australian Prime Minister announced on Wednesday that his country will also shun the Beijing Olympics this summer. This is a diplomatic boycott, like the one announced earlier this week by the United States. “Everyone does not care whether they come or not,” replied Chinese diplomacy.
Australia will not send any representative of its government to the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, thus joining the “diplomatic boycott” declared Monday by the United States, announced Wednesday (December 8th) the Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Canberra’s move comes amid “disagreement” with China on a number of issues ranging from Australian foreign interference laws to the recent decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, Scott said. Morrison. He also mentioned human rights violations in the Xinjiang region and Beijing’s reluctance to meet Australian officials for discussions.
“Australia will not go back on the strong position it has taken to defend its interests, and it is obviously not surprising that we do not send Australian officials to these Games,” he said. .
“Political politics”, according to Beijing
Asked during a press briefing, the spokesperson for Chinese diplomacy, Wang Wenbin, assured that his country had never intended to invite senior Australian officials.
“No one cares if they come or not,” he said. “Their political politics and their little games will not change the success of the Olympic Games,” he added. The Canberra decision “shows for all to see that the Australian government is blindly following in the footsteps of a certain country,” added Wang Wenbin, without naming the United States.
This decision, which does not prevent athletes from participating in the Games, comes two days after the American administration announced its “diplomatic boycott” in the name of the defense of human rights, more particularly because of the situation in the United States. Xinjiang which Washington considers a genocide of the Uyghur minority.
Beijing immediately retorted that “the United States will pay the price for its bad move.”
“Crucial step,” says Human Rights Watch
Human rights groups have hailed Canberra’s decision. Sophie Richardson, director of Human Rights Watch in China, called it “a crucial step towards challenging the crimes against humanity committed by the Chinese government against Uyghurs and other Turkish communities.”
According to activists, at least one million Uyghurs and other Turkish-speaking minorities, mainly Muslims, are being held in camps in Xinjiang. China is accused of forcibly sterilizing women there and imposing forced labor. Beijing says the camps are in fact vocational training centers intended to keep their residents away from radicalization.
“Australia’s statement that it will not send officials to the Olympics flies in the face of its publicly expressed expectation of improving relations between China and Australia,” said one. Chinese Embassy spokesperson in Canberra in a statement.
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) said it respected the government’s decision, adding that it would not impact the Australian team’s preparations. Around 40 Australian athletes are expected to compete in the Beijing Games, which open on February 4.
Relationships that deteriorate
Relations between Australia and China have deteriorated sharply in recent years. China has taken a series of sanctions on Australian goods amid a political conflict that plunged bilateral relations into their worst crisis since the events at Tiananmen in 1989.
China has notably been irritated by Australia’s decisions regarding foreign interference, the ban on awarding 5G contracts to Huawei and the demand for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.
Australia’s decision to outfit its navy with nuclear-powered submarines as part of a new defense pact with the UK and US, widely seen as an attempt to counter Chinese influence in the Pacific region, also aroused the ire of Beijing.
In addition, at least two Australians are currently detained in China: journalist Cheng Lei, for more than a year, and academic Yang Jun, on trial for espionage.