Australia Decides to Join US in Beijing Boycott, PM Says 'It's The Right Thing To Do'

Australia is joining the United States in staging a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics set to begin in February in Beijing over China's record on human rights issues, a move Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said shouldn't be a surprise and is the right thing to do.

Morrison announced Tuesday that Australia would follow in the footsteps of the US, which said Monday it will not send any diplomats or government officials to next year's games, a move that was attacked by Chinese officials.

In addition to the alleged human rights violations, like the jailing and killing of pro-democracy dissidents in Hong Kong and alleged treatment of Uyghur Muslims, an ethnic minority in the country, Morrison said the move is based on China's refusal to understand recent decisions made by Australia's government.

He cited a previously announced partnership between Australia, the US and Britain that would deliver nuclear-powered submarines to Australia to increase their defense capabilities, which China has been critical of.

Morrison said the decision should not be a surprise to anyone who has paid attention to the deterioration of the relationship between the two countries as Australia believes China has attempted to interfere in Australian politics, according to BBC News.

"I'm doing it because it's in Australia's national interest," Morrison said. "It's the right thing to do."

Australia's current plan to send about 40 athletes to the games is still in place, the Australian Olympic Committee said Tuesday. The committee also supports the government's decision.

Human rights advocates and some U.S. lawmakers say the U.S. and other countries should go further in fully boycotting the games.

Canada and Japan are among other countries reportedly considering diplomatic boycotts. New Zealand has already said it will not send representatives due to COVID-related concerns, according to BBC News.

Scott Morrison, Australia, Olympics Boycott, China
Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia speaks as National Statements are delivered on day two of the COP 26 United Nations Climate Change Conference at SECC on Nov. 1, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. Morrison announced Tuesday Australia's intentions to join the US in staging a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China. Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Morrison said his government was very happy to talk to China about their differences.

"There's been no obstacle to that occurring on our side, but the Chinese government has consistently not accepted those opportunities for us to meet," Morrison said.

The U.S. and Australian decisions fall short of the calls for a boycott but come at an exceptionally turbulent time for international relations and have been met with a barrage of criticism from China.

"Getting the athletes to Beijing safely, competing safely and bringing them home safely remains our greatest challenge," said Matt Carroll, the committee's chief executive.

"Our Australian athletes have been training and competing with this Olympic dream for four years now and we are doing everything in our power to ensure we can help them succeed," Carroll said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Beijing, Winter Olympics, Diplomatic Boycott, Australia, US
Picture taken during the official ceremony which unveiled the logo for the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Game in Beijing on Dec. 15, 2017. Australia and US announced Tuesday and Monday, respectively, diplomatic boycotts of next year's Winter Olympics, citing human rights concerns in China. Fred Dufour/AFP via Getty Images