A day after the U.S. announced its diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, Australia did the same. Prime minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday no Australian officials will attend the Games.
Australia’s boycott, like the Americans’, will affect only dignitaries and not athletes.
“Australia’s a great sporting nation and I very much separate the issues of sport and these other political issues,” Morrison said, per The Guardian.
Morrison cited China’s human-rights abuses in Xinjiang as a primary reason for the boycott, adding China — which has denied any wrongdoing in the region — has not spoken to Australia about its concerns. The 53-year-old said he wants to ease the tension between the two countries without stepping “back from the strong position we had standing up for Australia’s interest.”
The Australian Olympic Committee agreed with Morrison’s decision to separate politics and sport with the boycott, saying “diplomatic options are a matter for government” while acknowledging the human-rights issues at hand.
“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,”AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said. “Human rights are extremely important, but the considered view of diplomats is that keeping channels of communication open is far more impactful than shutting them down.”
Any Chinese retaliation from Australia’s decision to boycott the Games, Morrison said, would be “completely and utterly unacceptable and there would be no grounds for that whatsoever.”
Grounds or not, China dished out plenty of harsh words after the U.S. announced its boycott. The Chinese government accused the U.S. of “posturing and political manipulation,” and some senior officials claimed U.S. dignitaries weren’t invited anyway.
China foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian threatened the U.S. with “countermeasures” on Tuesday, claiming the U.S. would “pay a price for its erroneous actions.”
The International Olympic Committee announced Monday it “fully respects” the Americans’ boycott decision but has yet to comment on Australia’s.
The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are slated to begin Feb. 4.