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Olympics boycott: PM withdraws Australian officials from Beijing winter games

Politics

Australian government officials will not be attending the Beijing Winter Olympics next year, the prime minister has confirmed.

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Scott Morrison said the decision was made due to human rights abuses in China, and that Australia’s stance on the issue was “not surprising”.

The decision comes after President Joe Biden announced earlier this week the US would not send diplomatic officials to the Olympics, citing the Chinese government’s ongoing genocide against minority Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses.

The prime minister said while there would be a diplomatic boycott from Australia, athletes would still be attending the games, which begin in February.

“People have been very aware that we have been raising a number of issues that have not been received well in China,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Sydney.

“But the human rights abuses in Xinjiang and many other issues that Australia has consistently raised … the Chinese government has consistently not accepted those opportunities for us to meet about these issues.”

While the Chinese government has warned of further sanctions against nations that carry out a boycott of the Olympics, Mr Morrison said such a move would be unacceptable.

“There would be no grounds for that whatsoever,” he said.

“I’ll always stand up for Australia’s interests and what Australians believe is right, and we are living in an uncertain time.”

The move comes after growing diplomatic tensions between Australia and China, with China undertaking large amounts of export bans on Australian goods.

Beijing has been critical of Australia’s alignment with the AUKUS alliance and the decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.

Morrison said the Olympics would still be a “spectacular” sporting event.

The Australian Olympic Committee said it welcomed the government’s support for the Olympic team, but indicated politics and sport should remain separate.

Chief executive Matt Carroll said he respected the decision that diplomatic options were a matter for the government.

“The AOC is very focused on ensuring that team members are able to safely travel to China, given the complexity of the COVID environment,” he said.

“Human rights are extremely important, but the considered view of diplomats is that keeping channels of communication open is far more impactful than shutting them down.”

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