Australia considers “diplomatic boycott” of Beijing Games as Chinese government downplays Peng Shuai case

The Canberra government “is awaiting the decision by the Biden administration before it makes a call on whether to sign up to a diplomatic boycott”.

FILE PHOTO: Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks as National Statements are delivered as a part of the World Leaders' Summit at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain November 1, 2021. Ian Forsyth/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks as National Statements are delivered as a part of the World Leaders' Summit at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain November 1, 2021. Ian Forsyth/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

The most enigmatic and puzzling Olympic Games in decades continue to add problems: to President Joe Biden’s admission that the United States is considering a diplomatic boycott is now added the possibility that Australia will do so.

“Australia is considering not sending any government officials to the Beijing Winter Olympics next year amid growing calls from MPs for an official diplomatic boycott”, “The Sydney Morning Herald” said this Thursday.

“Australian politicians from both major parties are urging the government to boycott the Games, which will be held in China in February, as concern grows for the welfare of tennis player Peng Shuai”.

While the United Kingdom and Canada are also weighing up their positions, Australia appears to be closer to making the decision.

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

According to the newspaper, one of Australia’s most influential and best-informed, the Canberra government “is awaiting the decision by the Biden administration before it makes a call on whether to sign up to a diplomatic boycott, with its preference to make any move in conjunction with other like-minded countries”.

Canberra and Beijing are going through one of the worst times in their relations.

Both the United States and Britain are allies of Australia and the countries in September entered into a security partnership to help Australia build nuclear submarines.

In addition to generating a diplomatic crisis with France, which had a contract to build these submarines, the trilateral deal riled China, the major rising power in the Indo-Pacific region and the United States’ great geopolitical rival in the world today.

Soccer Football - World Cup - Asian Qualifiers - Third Round - Group B - China v Australia - Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates - November 16, 2021 Australia's Rhyan Grant in action with China's Wang Shenchao REUTERS/Satish Kumar
Soccer Football - World Cup - Asian Qualifiers - Third Round - Group B - China v Australia - Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates - November 16, 2021 Australia's Rhyan Grant in action with China's Wang Shenchao REUTERS/Satish Kumar

In addition, Australia banned Huawei Technologies 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, to maximize the tension in the relationship between the two countries.

While the West is deciding what to do about the Beijing Games, which will open on February 4, the Chinese Foreign Ministry played down the case of tennis player Peng Shuai.

“I believe everyone will have seen that she has recently attended some public activities and also held a video call with the IOC president, (Thomas) Bach,” said spokesman Zhao Lijian. “I hope certain people will cease malicious hyping, let alone politicisation.”

So far, the only high-profile leader to accept President Xi Jinping’s invitation to the Games is Russian head of state Vladimir Putin.

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