Why Australia’s Boycotting The Winter Olympics

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

There’s been a lot of chatter about the Beijing Winter Olympics being boycotted over the last couple of weeks.

So far, five countries have announced that none of their government officials will attend the games next February.

The boycott has been sparked over a few different reasons, and the Chinese government doesn’t seem too pleased about it.

The US was the first country to confirm that it wouldn’t be sending any diplomats or officials to the games.

Because US athletes will still be competing, it’s what’s called a diplomatic boycott.

Australia, Canada and the UK have since announced that they’ll be joining the US in a diplomatic boycott of the Games too.

But France confirmed that it won’t be joining the boycott.

The US said that it had made its decision as a protest against the reported human rights abuses of Uyghur minorities in the Xinjiang province of China.

It’s also partly in response to the controversy around tennis player Peng Shuai.

She faced abrupt censorship after she posted an allegation of sexual assault against a member of the Chinese government on the Chinese social media site Weibo.

The Response To The Winter Olympics Boycott

Scomo confirmed that ongoing diplomatic tensions between China and Australia played a part in the decision to join the diplomatic boycott.

He said that the decision should come as “no surprise” to China, and that it’s being done in “Australia’s national interest”.

Labor backed the decision, and Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong agreed that there are deep concerns about human rights abuses and athlete safety.

There are about 40 Australian athletes due to compete in the Winter Olympics.

The Australian Olympics Committee said the diplomatic boycott was a government matter, and that its priority is for the athletes to safely compete.

Australia’s boycott extends to Australian officials already in China too, and the decision doesn’t help the already tense relationship between the two countries.

The Chinese government responded quickly, putting out a statement a few hours after Scomo’s.

It said that Australia’s success at the Games doesn’t have anything do with the attendance of Australian officials.

It added that the decision contradicts the sentiment of improving relations between the nations.

And accused the boycotting countries of using the Olympic platform for political manipulation.

Chinese state media have since published a series of political cartoons that suggest Scott Morrison’s decision was made just to follow the US.

Some people have pointed out that, especially with COVID, diplomats and officials weren’t really going to go anyway, and that the Olympics aren’t a particularly significant diplomatic event in the first place.

What We Can Learn From Previous Boycotts?

There have been six Olympics boycotts before, for various political reasons, and only for the Summer Olympics.

The biggest boycotts were in 1980 and 1984, in a sort of tit-for-tat between the US and the Soviet Union.

Years later, Australia’s PM-at-the-time, Malcom Fraser, admitted the attempted boycott wasn’t a good decision, and left the athletes facing the brunt of it.

This time, the diplomatic boycotts mean that athletes can still compete, while countries can still send out a political message.

But boycotting the Olympics is a pretty big deal, and it’s unclear how this diplomatic one will play out, or what the impact of it will be.