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Australia, U.K. join U.S. in diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

Click to play video: 'Should Canada boycott the Beijing Olympics?' Should Canada boycott the Beijing Olympics?
WATCH: Should Canada boycott the Beijing Olympics? – Dec 7, 2021

Australia and the United Kingdom will join the United States in a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, as other allies weigh similar moves to protest China‘s human rights record.

The Canadian government has so far offered little indication of its own plans though Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly told journalists on Wednesday she expects to announce a decision “very soon.”

The United States has said its government officials will boycott February’s Beijing Olympics because of China’s human rights “atrocities,” just weeks after talks aimed at easing tense relations between the world’s two largest economies.

China said the United States would “pay the price” for its decision and warned of countermeasures in response, but gave no details.

Click to play video: '“Nobody cares” if US diplomatic officials boycott Winter Olympics, says China’s ambassador to Canada' “Nobody cares” if US diplomatic officials boycott Winter Olympics, says China’s ambassador to Canada
“Nobody cares” if US diplomatic officials boycott Winter Olympics, says China’s ambassador to Canada – Dec 7, 2021

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday’s decision came because of the country’s struggles to re-open diplomatic channels with China to discuss alleged human rights abuses in the far western region of Xinjiang and Beijing’s moves against Australian imports.

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Announcing the plans, Morrison said Beijing had not responded to several issues raised by Canberra, including the rights abuse accusations.

“So it is not surprising therefore that Australian government officials would not be going to China for those Games,” Morrison told reporters in Sydney. Australian athletes will attend.

Read more: U.S. ambassador to Canada expects countries to be ‘aligned’ over Beijing Olympics boycott

Furthermore on Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said no U.K. government minister will attend the Olympics, calling it “effectively” a diplomatic boycott.

He said he opposed boycotts involving athletes, but Great Britain would effectively be boycotting the Olympics diplomatically.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has urged the federal government to join its allies in a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, citing ongoing Chinese human rights violations.

China has denied any wrongdoing in Xinjiang and said allegations are fabricated.

Its foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing in Beijing that Australian politicians were engaged in “political posturing.”

“Whether they come or not, nobody cares,” he added.

Read more: China warns U.S. diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics threatens global co-operation

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The Australian Olympic Committee said the boycott would have no impact on athletes’ preparations for the Games, which run from Feb. 4 to 20, adding that “diplomatic options” were a matter for governments.

On Tuesday, New Zealand announced it would not be sending diplomatic representatives at a ministerial level to the Olympics in February, citing COVID-19 as the reason.

Meanwhile, other U.S. allies have been slow to respond to the boycotts.

Japan is considering not sending cabinet members to Games after the United States announced its diplomatic boycott, the Sankei Shimbun daily said on Wednesday, citing unidentified government sources.

A South Korean presidential official said the country is currently not considering a diplomatic boycott.

President Joe Biden’s administration cited what the United States calls genocide against minority Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region. China denies all rights abuses.

Click to play video: 'Superpower standoff: U.S. launches diplomatic boycott of 2022 Beijing Olympics' Superpower standoff: U.S. launches diplomatic boycott of 2022 Beijing Olympics
Superpower standoff: U.S. launches diplomatic boycott of 2022 Beijing Olympics – Dec 6, 2021

The Winter Games will begin about six months after the Summer Games wrapped up in the Japanese capital of Tokyo following a year’s delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“We always ask for as much respect as possible and least possible interference from the political world,” said Juan Antonio Samaranch, who heads the International Olympic Committee’s coordination panel for the Beijing event.

“We have to be reciprocal. We respect the political decisions taken by political bodies.”

The United States is set to host the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and is preparing to bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

The American diplomatic boycott, encouraged for months by some members of the U.S. Congress and rights groups, comes despite an effort to stabilize the two nations’ ties, with a video meeting last month between Biden and China’s Xi Jinping.

'THE ONLY OPTION'

Unless other countries joined the boycott it would undermine the message that China’s human rights abuses are unacceptable, said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

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“The only option really that is available to us is to try to get as many countries as we can to stand with us in this coalition,” Glaser told a U.S. congressional hearing on Tuesday.

Ties between Australia and its top trade partner, China, are at a low ebb after Canberra banned Huawei Technologies from its 5G broadband network in 2018 and sought an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.

Beijing responded with tariffs on Australian commodities such as barley, beef, coal and wine.

— with files from The Associated Press and Global News’ Amanda Connolly 

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