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Australia mulls major move against China: 'Somebody has to'

China has reacted angrily to reports Australia is considering a diplomatic boycott of Beijing's Winter Olympics, warning such a move would be unsuccessful and be unfair to the athletes.

A raft of MPs are urging the Morrison government to boycott the event next year, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian issued a warning to Australia on Thursday evening when pressed on the report.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian pictured in a suit and blue tie in front of a Chinese flag.
Zhao Lijian warned Australia against a diplomatic boycott. Source: FMPRC

"China firmly rejects politicisation of sports and violation of the spirit of the Olympic Charter, which only undermine the interests of athletes from all countries," he said.

"The attempt at a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics is doomed to fail.

"China has reiterated many times that the Beijing Winter Games is a stage for all winter sports athletes around the world. It is them that should be in the spotlight."

Boycott from Australia would be 'significant'

Human rights lawyer and former Olympic swimmer Nikki Dryden said Australia would play a "critical role" in a diplomatic boycott by nations.

President Joe Biden last week said the United States was considering a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics, a move that would be aimed at protesting China's human rights record, including what Washington says is genocide against minority Muslims in Xinjiang.

Concerns about the welfare of tennis player Peng Shuai, who alleged on social media China's former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli had sexually assaulted her before vanishing for more than two weeks, are also believed to be a contributing factor for such a move.

Ms Dryden told ABC Radio National if the US led the way, many of its allies, including Australia would likely follow.

The Australian government is awaiting the decision by the Biden administration before it makes a call on a diplomatic boycott, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Such a move would allow athletes to compete however a delegation of officials would not attend. Sports Minister Richard Colbeck and Foreign Minister Marise Payne are among those who would not attend in such an arrangement.

The Chinese and Olympic flags flutter at the headquarters of the Beijing Organising Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing, China on November 12, 2021.
Beijing will host the Winter Olympics 14 years after hosting the Summer Games in 2008. Source: Reuters (Thomas Suen / reuters)

Ms Dryden said it would be "significant" if the hosts of the next three Summer Olympics, France, the US and Australia, were to boycott the Beijing games.

She says China made a hollow promise to improve its human rights record to win the 2008 Summer Olympics and were not held accountable for doing so.

"In fact the situation in China when it comes to human rights is probably worse than it was ahead of the 2008 Olympics," Ms Dryden said.

"Somebody has to do something. The sports community hasn't done anything so I think it's time for politicians to take a stand."

Australia-China relationship shows no sign of improving

Australia's relationship with the US has come under scrutiny from China in recent months following the AUKUS agreement that will see the US and UK facilitate Australia in adding nuclear-powered submarines to its arsenal.

It is the latest in a long line of grievances Beijing has raised with Canberra, which includes anger over the blocking of Chinese investment in Australia and interference with what it calls internal matters such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton has riled Beijing in recent months for what China calls an "irresponsible" obsession with hyping the possibility of war in the Indo-Pacific.

If a diplomatic boycott was to materialise, it is expected to only worsen the already depleted relationship between the two countries.

With Reuters

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