Australia considers unofficial boycott of Beijing Olympics

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Medical workers watch a hockey team practising during a test event at Beijing’s National Indoor Stadium on Nov 10. (AP pic)

Reuters

SYDNEY: Australia is considering not sending any government officials to the Winter Olympics to be held in Beijing next year amid growing calls from lawmakers for an official diplomatic boycott, the Sydney Morning Herald said in a report on Thursday.

Australian politicians from the ruling Liberal-National coalition and the opposition Labor Party are urging the federal government to boycott the event, which will be held in China in February, the newspaper reported without citing a source.

A diplomatic boycott would involve not sending a delegation of officials, but allowing athletes to participate.

Australia’s foreign affairs department and sports ministry did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

President Joe Biden last week said the US is considering a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics, a move that would be aimed at protesting China’s human rights record, including what Washington says is genocide against minority Muslims.

Britain has not yet made any decision on who will represent its government at the Olympics but Prime Minister Boris Johnson does not support the idea of boycotts, his spokesman earlier this week said.

The Australian government is awaiting the decision by the Biden administration before it makes a call on a diplomatic boycott, the report in the Sydney Morning Herald said.

Both the US and Britain are close allies of Australia and the countries in September entered into a security partnership to help Australia build nuclear submarines. The trilateral deal riled China, the major rising power in the Indo-Pacific region.

Australia’s relationship with China, its largest trading partner, soured after it banned Huawei Technologies Co Ltd from its 5G broadband network in 2018 and called for an independent investigation into the origins of Covid-19.

Beijing responded by imposing tariffs on several Australian commodities.