Australian government officials will not attend the Beijing Winter Olympics, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed
Mr Morrison said the decision was made due to human rights abuses in China, and that Australia’s stance on the issue was “not surprising”.
“Australia will not step back from the strong position we had standing up for Australia’s interest, and obviously it is of no surprise that we wouldn’t be sending Australian officials to those games,” he said on Wednesday.
Mr Biden cited the Chinese government’s ongoing genocide against minority Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses as a reason for not sending officials to Beijing for the Games in February.
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 imposing export bans on Australian goods.
China has also criticised Australia’s alignment with the AUKUS alliance and the decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
Mr Morrison said the Olympics would still be a “spectacular” sporting event.
On Tuesday, China shrugged off the US announcement, describing it as “a pretentious act”.
“No invitation has been extended to US politicians whatsoever, so this ‘diplomatic boycott’ simply comes out of nowhere,” embassy official Liu Pengyu said in a written statement.
“Such a pretentious act is only a political manipulation and a grave distortion of the spirit of the Olympic Charter. In fact, no one would care about whether these people come or not, and it has no impact whatsoever on the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics to be successfully held.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said the United States had consulted with allies on a “shared approach” to the Beijing Games.
New Zealand said it alerted China in October that it would not send diplomatic representatives to the Games, citing COVID-19 concerns.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said on Tuesday that NZ had also communicated its concerns about human rights.
“We’ve made clear to China on numerous occasions our concerns about human rights issues – as recently as the Prime Minister talking to President Xi,” he said.
“They’re well aware of our view on human rights.”
Stefano Sannino, chief of the European Union’s diplomatic service, said on Friday after meetings with US officials in Washington it was important to keep up pressure on China over abuses in Xinjiang, but any boycott was in the domain of individual members states, not common EU foreign policy.
Chinese officials say they have received more than 1500 applications from the US Olympic Committee, which is responsible for submitting names of athletes to attend the Winter Games.
Nonetheless, they cite strict COVID-19 restrictions for plans to limit spectator attendance, and Chinese state media has said Beijing does not intend to invite Western politicians who have threatened a boycott.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is the only leader of a major country who has so far accepted China’s invitation to attend.