The Morrison government is considering covid restrictions as a reason for officials to stay away from the Beijing Winter Olympics, as calls grow for Australia to follow the US in a diplomatic boycott.
Guardian Australia understands that an announcement could be made soon, but the government is unlikely to take as strong a position as the Biden administration, which has blasted China over ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity. The Australian government is considering the language to be used, with suggestions that it may not be presented as a boycott. It is weighing up saying officials won't go because Covid restrictions meant they would mostly be confined to their hotel rooms.
The New Zealand government said on Tuesday it would not send diplomatic representatives to the Winter Olympics, citing a range of factors, but mostly to do with Covid. The Australian government has been watching closely the actions of the US when it comes to a diplomatic boycott, and was always considered to coordinate any action rather than take steps on its own. The UK and Canada are considering their positions.
Australia s Minister for Sport, Richard Colbeck, said on Tuesday that a decision on commonwealth representation at the Beijing Winter Olympics is yet to be made. The Liberal Party senator Eric Abetz, who chairs the foreign affairs, defence and trade committee, said it was essential that Australia follow suit and take a strong stand against the Chinese communist dictatorship's litany of human rights abuses. Biden administration announced on Monday that it would not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games.
That will be a decision for Cabinet as we move forward and obviously the national security committee will make those decisions, and I understand that those conversations are happening, he said.
Asked about the Morrison government confirming it was considering a diplomatic boycott, Zhao said that nobody would care about whether these people come or not, and it has no impact on the Olympics to be successfully held by Beijing. The independent South Australian senator Rex Patrick urged the government to announce that no Australian ministers, senior officials or diplomats would attend the Games.
It would be morally wrong for the Australian government to extend any measure of official endorsement to the Chinese communist regime that commits and continues to commit gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, Patrick said.
The calls for a diplomatic boycott were supported by the Greens. Labor called for the government to work with the opposition to come to an agreed bipartisan position.
Labor Senator Katy Gallagher said Australia should make their decision in a bipartisan way and in the national interest.
China's acting ambassador to Australia, Wang Xining, said last month that a boycott would hurt the image of Australia as a very sporty nation. Chinese officials deny crimes against humanity against the Uyghur minority in the western Xinjiang region, blamed anti-China entities for the allegations.
The UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, complained about a lack of progress in getting meaningful access to the region so she can investigate the situation.