SYDNEY - China has condemned Australia's diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics as 'political posturing.' China's treatment of its Uyghur minority spurred Australia's decision, which followed a similar U.S. move.
Australia's boycott of the Winter Games in China includes politicians and diplomats.
It comes as friction between the two countries intensifies over human rights, trade, and allegations of Chinese interference in Australia's domestic affairs. Canberra's call last year for an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 also infuriated Beijing, which took it as criticism of its handling of the virus. Disputes over Hong Kong's democracy movement and China's military ambitions in the South China Sea have also contributed to the tension.
'It is not surprising that Australian government officials would therefore not be going to China for those Games," said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. "Australian athletes will, though. Australia is a great sporting nation. I very much separate the issues of sport and these other political issues, and I would like to see those issues resolved, but they are not resolved, and Australia will not step back from the strong position we have standing up for Australia's interests.'
China has said that tensions in the bilateral relationship lie 'squarely on the Australian side.'
China is Australia's biggest trading partner. Political disputes in recent years have seen China impose tariffs and restrictions on a range of Australian imports, including coal, wine, barley and lobsters.
Caitlin Byrne, director of the Griffith Asia Institute at Griffith University in Queensland, said Australia's diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics could cause China to retaliate.
'Will it achieve any significant outcome? Possibly not and, in fact, it does bring risks as well," she said. "China has already said in response to the United States statement of the diplomatic boycott and in response to Australia that there will be countermeasures, and we are likely to see some kind of response. It is not clear what that will be.'
Australia's diplomatic boycott follows a similar move earlier this week by the United States and Britain. On Thursday, Canada said it, too, would not send officials to the Winter Olympics, which start Feb. 4 in the Chinese capital.