China defends itself, claims ‘nobody cares’ after Australian PM makes Olympics decision
Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has revealed his country's decision following the US diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics – and China has reacted by defending itself and claiming "nobody cares".
Morrison announced that Canberra will decline to send officials to the Games, which start in February.
The move follows the Biden administration's confirmation on Tuesday over what it perceives as human rights abuses overseen by China.
"Australia will not step back from the strong position we've had standing in up for Australia's interests, and obviously it is of no surprise that we wouldn't be sending Australian officials to those Games," said Morrison.
Australia joins in the diplomatic boycott of #Beijing2022. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision was made due to Australia's struggles to reopen diplomatic channels with China to discuss alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang and other issues https://t.co/77YN4MH2NCpic.twitter.com/US8cVQqleM— Reuters (@Reuters) December 8, 2021
The premier cited a number of issues the two countries have disagreed on in recent times, including alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang. China has frozen ministerial contact with Australia.
“The human rights abuses in Xinjiang and many other issues that Australia has consistently raised – we have been very pleased and very happy to talk to the Chinese government about these issues,” he said.
“But the Chinese government has consistently not accepted those opportunities for us to meet about these issues.”
Human Rights Watch China director Sophie Richardson called the move a "crucial step toward challenging the Chinese government's crimes against humanity targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic communities".
Campaigners claim that a million Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking, predominantly Muslim minorities have been held in camps in the Xinjiang region in the north of the country, which China denies while accused of sterilizing women by force and imposing forced labor.
Other tensions between the two countries have included Australia's eagerness to rule against the operations of overseas influences in order to bar technology giant Huawei from 5g contracts while calling for an independent review into the origins of Covid-19.
China was infuriated by a recent move to equip the Australian navy with nuclear-powered submarines as part of a UK and US defence pact, and two Australians – the journalist Cheng Lei, imprisoned for more than a year, and academic Yang Jun, on trial for espionage – are currently detained in the Asian country.
Following the announcement, China accused Australia of "political posturing and selfish games" and said it had "blindly following" the US into a boycott.
"Whether they come or not, nobody cares," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, highlighting the point that Beijing never intended to send invites to Australian officials for the Winter Games.
"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.
“As we all know, the blame for the current predicament of China-Australia relations lies squarely on the Australian side.
“China once again urges the Australian side to take practical measures to create favorable conditions for improving bilateral relations.
"The Australian side’s statement that it will not send officials to the Beijing Winter Olympics runs counter to its publicly pronounced expectation to improve China-Australia relations."
Morrison insists Australia has "always been open" to holding talks with China to resolve the issues but said he had been repeatedly knocked back.
"There's been no obstacle to that occurring on our side, but the Chinese government has consistently not accepted those opportunities for us to meet about these issues," Morrison said.
The AOC has welcomed the Federal Government's support for the Australian Olympic Team's participation in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games to be held in February next year.#Beijing2022#ChasingWinter Full statement 👉 https://t.co/4pNC1PqvUcpic.twitter.com/LemAv6nAkM— AUS Olympic Team (@AUSOlympicTeam) December 8, 2021
"Australia's a great sporting nation and I very much separate the issues of sport and these other political issues. They're issues between two governments, and I would like to see those issues resolved."
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has also said Morrison's move will not have any bearing on its team of around 40 athletes' preparation.
"The AOC is very focused on ensuring that team members are able to safely travel to China given the complexity of the Covid environment, with our athletes departing from overseas locations," chief executive Matt Carroll remarked.
"Getting the athletes to Beijing safely, competing safely and bringing them home safely remains our greatest challenge."
Russia has dubbed the US boycott "counterproductive", with president Vladimir Putin revealing that he plans to attend the opening ceremony of the Games.