Australia considering ‘unofficial’ boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

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Beijing will host 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games  (Reuters)
Beijing will host 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (Reuters)

The Australian government may not send diplomats to the Winter Olympics in Beijing as it is considering an unofficial boycott in the wake of concerns over the welfare of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai.

Lawmakers from both the ruling Liberal-National coalition in Australia and opposition Labour party, have urged the Scott Morrison government to boycott the event being held in February next year, and the federal government is considering the request, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The demands for boycott come after Peng, former doubles world number one player, accused a top Chinese Communist Party official of sexually assaulting her. Days after that, she disappeared from public eye, triggering an international uproar.

So far, there has been no official confirmation on the status of Australia’s representation at the event. However, a spokesperson for the country’s sports ministry confirmed to Reuters that the matter is under discussion.

“A decision on [Australia’s] representation at the Beijing Winter Olympics is yet to be made,” the emailed response of a spokesperson for sports minister Richard Colbeck said.

Mr Colbeck and Australia’s foreign minister Marise Payne are unlikely to attend the Beijing Olympics, which takes place next February.

The Australian government is awaiting the decision by the Joe Biden administration to decide whether or not it should boycott the Winter Olympics 2022, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

There is a potential for a diplomatic boycott as a protest against the Chinese government’s human rights abuses. A diplomatic boycott means no government officials will be sent to the event, but athletes can still participate.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian has already objected to the boycott calls, calling it a “politicisation” of the Olympics.

“I believe everyone will have seen she [Peng Shuai] has recently attended some public activities and also held a video call with the IOC president, [Thomas] Bach,” said Mr Zhao. “I hope certain people will cease malicious hyping, let alone politicisation.”

Peng, who has alleged that she was forced to have sex with China’s former vice premier Zhang Gaoli, 75, and was pushed into an extramarital relationship with him before he broke all contact with her, has been out of public sight for weeks, raising concerns that she could be under duress.

Last Sunday, she reportedly had a video call with the IOC president and was spotted publicly at a tennis event. However, this has failed to quell concerns among rights organisations and international athletes relating to Peng.

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