Any hopes that Beijing officials might have had a smoother ride planning the Winter Olympics in comparison to the Summer Games in Tokyo have well and truly gone out of the window.
Once again, China has entered the news cycle in the Western world for all the wrong reasons, with first the USA and now Australia confirming a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games scheduled for Beijing in 2022.
The Aussie prime minister, Scott Morrison, has revealed that the alleged human rights abuse that has taken place in the Xinjiang province is the reason, claiming that ‘I’m doing it because it’s in Australia’s national interest. It’s the right thing to do.’
It comes just days after the USA had become the first country to announce their plan to boycott the action in Beijing. They too pointed at the alleged human rights abuses as their reason, with the treatment of the Muslim community of Uyghur followers in Xinjiang – and the reported suppression of liberal politics in Hong Kong – two of the primary reasons.
There’s also the ongoing case of major-winning tennis ace Peng Shuai, who many believe is still missing despite an appearance in a video leaked by Chinese authorities.
In response, China has accused Australia of ‘political posturing’, and claimed that the souring of relations between the two countries is solely the fault of the Oceanic nation.
And they had far sterner words for America, claiming the US would ‘pay a price’ for announcing their decision not to send diplomats to Beijing next winter. The foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, said rather cryptically:
“The United States will pay a price for its mistaken acts. Let’s all wait and see.”
What is a Diplomatic Boycott?
It should be pointed out that a diplomatic boycott is not the same as a wholesale boycott, and so athletes from the USA, Australia and any other country that decides to swerve the Beijing Games will still be allowed to compete with full blessing.
Normally at the Olympic Games, a delegation of ministers from all of the competing nations would attend – it’s a traditional thing that enables politicians to enjoy a nice jolly-up at the taxpayers’ expense (that’s unlike them) all under the guise of strengthening international relations.
By boycotting Beijing, the US and Australia are taking a stand against the perceived abuses of the Chinese government, and essentially embarrassing them on a world stage – presumably in the hope that they would reassess how they go about their business.
Typically, China are not for turning, however, and so they will probably just soldier on as normal.
It would be rather more attention-grabbing if the nations involved declared that they wouldn’t allow their athletes to compete – that said, boycotts of that nature are not all that rare.
As the Cold War raged in the 1980s, a huge number of countries – from the USA and Canada to Japan and West Germany boycotted the Moscow Games, and four years later it was the turn of the Soviet Union, Poland and Hungary to retaliate when Los Angeles took on hosting duties.