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Federal MPs are urging Australia to join a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics

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Liberal senator Eric Abetz, who also chairs the upper house foreign affairs, defence and trade legislation committee, has called for Australian officials not to attend the games.

“What we need to do is what we have always done, which is act on principle,” he told SBS News. 

“The principle here is that fundamental human rights are being egregiously broken by this dictatorship.”

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Senator Abetz said he was not concerned about potential blowback from China should Australia also decide to go ahead with a diplomatic boycott.

Despite China already launching several export bans on Australian goods, Senator Abetz said Australia should choose to act, regardless of further economic or diplomatic fallout.

“To let this dictatorship know that their human rights abuses are being noticed by the world and we will not give them the comfort and the prestige of having our dignitaries visit Beijing for the Olympic games,” he said.  

US announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

Senator Abetz said the government was taking the call for a diplomatic boycott seriously.

However, Australian athletes should still be able to compete at the Olympics, noting athlete participation was a matter for the International Olympic Committee, he added.

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But Nationals senator Matt Canavan has gone a step further and is advocating for an athletes boycott.

“The treatment of sportspeople within China has to raise the question of whether we should be engaging in sporting activities with such a government,” he told Sky News.

Senator Canavan’s comments come after the disappearance of tennis player Pen Shuai, who has not been seen for several weeks after she accused China’s former vice-premier of sexually assaulting her.

The Women’s Tennis Association has suspended all of its tournaments in China as a result.

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The Australian Olympic Team will attend the Beijing games despite the diplomatic tensions, the AOC confirmed.

“Our athletes have been preparing for four years to compete at the Olympics. Diplomatic boycotts are a matter for governments and don’t impact on the Team,” a spokesperson told SBS News.

Independent South Australian senator Rex Patrick welcomed the US decision to implement the diplomatic boycott.

“It would be morally wrong for the Australian government to extend any measure of official endorsement to the Chinese Communist regime,” he said.

“The Australian government needs to be particularly clear about the Chinese Communist Party’s responsibility for genocide.”

‘Genocide against minority Muslims’

President Joe Biden said last month that he was considering such a diplomatic boycott amid criticism of China’s human rights record, including what Washington says is genocide against minority Muslims in its western region of Xinjiang.

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The move – despite a recent effort to stabilise ties with a video meeting last month between Mr Biden and China’s leader Xi Jinping – is certain to further strain the two superpowers’ relations which have been at their lowest point in decades.

“The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games given the PRC’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told a daily press briefing on Monday.

“US diplomatic or official representation would treat these games as business as usual in the face of the PRC’s egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang, and we simply can’t do that,” Ms Psaki said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

The diplomatic boycott, which has been encouraged by some members of the US Congress for months, would not affect the attendance of American athletes, she said.

“The athletes on Team USA have our full support. We will be behind them 100 per cent as we cheer them on from home.”

Earlier, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a news briefing those calling for a boycott are “grandstanding” and should stop “so as not to affect the dialogue and cooperation between China and the United States in important areas”.

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The Beijing Winter Olympics are scheduled to begin in February next year.

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