Australia, U.K. join U.S. in diplomatic boycott of Winter Olympics in Beijing
Both nations confirm athletes will still attend Games
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson both said Wednesday that their countries will join the U.S. in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Games over human rights concerns.
Morrison said it should come as no surprise that Australian officials would boycott the event after the nation's relationship with China had broken down in recent years.
"I'm doing it because it's in Australia's national interest," Morrison said. "It's the right thing to do."
He said Australian athletes would still be able to compete.
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Johnson also said he opposed boycotts involving athletes.
"There will be effectively a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics in Beijing," Johnson told lawmakers. "No [U.K.] ministers are expected to attend and no officials."
He went on to say that, "The government has no hesitation in raising these issues with China, as I did with President Xi the last time I talked to him."
As well as citing human rights abuses, Morrison said China had been very critical of Australia's efforts to have a strong defence force in the region "particularly in relation, most recently, to our decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines."
He said his government was very happy to talk to China about their differences.
"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," Morrison said.
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Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin denounced Morrison's announcement as "political posturing," but did not directly threaten the "resolute countermeasures" it vowed to exact on the U.S.
"China has not invited any Australian government officials to attend the Winter Olympics, and no one would care about whether they come or not," Wang said at a daily briefing. "The Australian politicians' political posturing and hyping for their own political interest have no impact whatsoever on the successful Beijing Olympic Games."
Referring to the U.S., Wang said Australia was "blindly following certain countries in their steps to confuse right and wrong without a bottom line."
Australian athletes expected to compete, unclear on Royal Family
The Australian Olympic Committee said the arrangements for the 40 or so Australian athletes expected to compete at the Games would not be impacted by Morrison's announcement.
"Getting the athletes to Beijing safely, competing safely and bringing them home safely remains our greatest challenge," said Matt Carroll, the committee's chief executive.
"Our Australian athletes have been training and competing with this Olympic dream for four years now and we are doing everything in our power to ensure we can help them succeed," Carroll said in a statement.
It wasn't immediately clear whether Britain's Royal Family could still attend the 2022 Games. Princess Anne, Queen Elizabeth II's daughter, was an Olympic equestrian and is president of the British Olympic Association