The United States on Monday said its government officials will boycott the Games in February because of China’s human rights ‘atrocities’.
China said the US will ‘pay the price’ for its decision and warned of ‘resolute countermeasures’ in response.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (centre) has confirmed Australia will boycott the winter Olympics
Pictured: Protesters in Sydney in June called on the Australian Government to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics
On Wednesday Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed Australia will also boycott the games, meaning officials will not turn up but Aussie athletes will still compete.
Up to one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are believed to be held in camps in China‘s far-west region of Xinjiang, according to the United Nations.
China says they are legitimate prisoners but the West fears they are being unfairly detained because they are Muslim.
Confirming Australia will join the boycott, Mr Morrison said China has refused to speak to Australia about ‘the human rights abuses in Xinjiang and many other issues that Australia has consistently raised.
‘So it is not surprising, therefore, that Australian government officials would, therefore, not be going to China for those Games. Australian athletes will, though,’ he said.
A perimeter fence around what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre in Dabancheng in Xinjiang in China’s far west region. Activists say Muslims are being detained against their will
Asked if he feared backlash from China for the decision, Mr Morrison said: ‘That would be completely and utterly unacceptable and there would be no grounds for that whatsoever.
‘I’ll always stand up for Australia’s interests and what Australians believe is right and we are living in an uncertain time.’
Mr Morrison said the Olympics would still be a ‘spectacular’ sporting event.
The boycott has been backed by Australia’s most famous winter Olympian, Steven Bradbury, who won speed skating gold in 2002 when all his opponents fell over.
The Brisbane local told The Australian: ‘You can’t take away an athlete’s dreams. But if China isn’t going to act in a way so that we can all live together on planet Earth and if China is going to continue to put tariffs on our products and try to hamstring us, then we need to act.
Steven Bradbury (pictured winning gold in 2002) has backed the boycott
‘It has become glaringly obvious that China’s mission is to take over the world, and more and more people are starting to understand that.’
In Beijing on Monday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing that his country opposes the US diplomatic boycott and promised ‘resolute countermeasures’ in response.
‘The United States will pay a price for its mistaken acts,’ he said, without giving details. ‘Let’s all wait and see.’
The US is set to host the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and is preparing a bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Asked if China would consider a diplomatic boycott of Olympic Games in the United States, Zhao said the US boycott has ‘damaged the foundation and atmosphere’ of sports exchange and cooperation on the Olympics, which he likened to ‘lifting a stone to crush one’s own foot.’
He called on the United States to keep politics out of sports, saying the boycott went against Olympic principles.
The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday said it respected the United States’ decision.
‘We always ask for as much respect as possible and least possible interference form the political world,’ said Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC’s coordination commission chief for the Beijing Olympics.
‘We have to be reciprocal. We respect the political decisions taken by political bodies.’
The American diplomatic boycott, encouraged for months by some members of the US Congress and rights groups, came despite an effort to stabilise ties between the world’s two largest economies, with a video meeting last month between President Biden and China’s Xi Jinping.
Pictured: The National Ski Jumping Centre, a venue for the Winter Olympics in Beijing
China has warned of ‘resolute countermeasures’ in response to boycotts of the Beijing Olympics. Pictured: President Xi Jinping
It also comes amid growing diplomatic tensions between Australia and China.
China has been critical of the new AUKUS alliance with the US and UK and the Government’s decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
Relations soured dramatically in April 2020 when Mr Morrison infuriated Australia’s largest trading partner by calling for an independent inquiry into the origins of coronavirus which was identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
China has held up Australia’s coal and seafood exports and put a 200 per cent tariff on Aussie wine despite the two countries signing a free trade deal in 2015.
Earlier this year Beijing slapped an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley, suspended beef imports and told students and tourists not to travel Down Under.
The Government has tried to call Chinese counterparts but the Chinese are not picking up the phone.
Detention centres in Xinjiang first appeared in 2014 shortly after officials launched a new ‘strike hard’ campaign against ‘terrorism’ following deadly violence in the region.
China says people are at the camps voluntarily and describes them as ‘professional vocational training institutions’ used to counter terrorism while improving employment opportunities for citizens guilty of minor offences.
But Uighur activists believe people are being detained against their will and badly mistreated inside.
There are approximately 12 million people who belong to Muslim minorities in Xinjiang – with as many as one million detained.
Unverified drone footage in 2019 showed blindfolded Muslim detainees being led from trains with their heads shaven, eyes covered and hands bound. Beijing said it was a ‘normal’ transfer of prisoners.
Dozens of students at their desks learning Chinese and law in a programme that introduced the ‘professional vocational training institutions’ in Hotan, Xinjiang