China has denounced Australia’s diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics as “political currency”. China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority prompted Australia’s decision, which followed a similar US move.
Politicians and diplomats have been involved in Australia’s boycott of the Winter Games in China.
It comes as friction between the two countries intensifies over allegations of Chinese interference in human rights, trade and Australia’s domestic affairs. Last year’s call for an inquiry into the origins of Canberra’s COVID-19 also spurred Beijing, which took it as a criticism of its handling of the virus. Controversies over Hong Kong’s democracy movement and China’s military ambitions in the South China Sea have also contributed to tensions.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, “It is not surprising that Australian government officials will not go to China for those Games. However, Australian athletes will. Australia is a great sporting nation. I take sporting issues very differently.” And these other political issues, and I want to see those issues resolved, but they have not been resolved, and Australia will not back down from the strong position we stand for in Australia’s interests.”
China has said that the tension in bilateral ties is “entirely on the Australian side.”
China is Australia’s largest trading partner. Political disputes in recent years have seen China impose tariffs and restrictions on many Australian imports, including coal, wine, barley and lobster.
Caitlin Byrne, director of the Griffith Asia Institute at Griffith University in Queensland, said Australia’s diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics could prompt China to retaliate.
“Will this yield any significant results? Possibly not and, in fact, it also brings risks,” she said. “China has already said in response to the statement of the diplomatic boycott of the United States and in response to Australia that there will be a counter-measure, and we are likely to see some sort of response. It is not clear what that will be. “
Australia’s diplomatic boycott follows a similar move by the United States and Britain earlier this week. On Thursday, Canada said it too would not send officials to the Winter Olympics in the Chinese capital beginning February 4.