Commentary on Political Economy

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Australia encouraged to boycott Beijing Winter Olympics after China trade sanctions

David Morris does a skiing flip
Winter Olympian and Australian aerial ski team coach David Morris opposes a proposed boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

The founder of a global coalition of politicians pushing for Beijing to be stripped of the Winter Olympics says Australia shouldn't "shy away" from boycotting the games out of fear of further upsetting China.

Key points:

    British MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith told 7.30 China's "appalling" treatment of Australia is even more reason for the Federal Government to take a stance against Beijing being the 2022 host.

    "What Australia has gone through is appalling," he said, referring to China's recent trade sanctions.

    "But then you have to ask yourself the question — if countries shy away now because of that treatment, then who has won this process?

    The co-chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China is calling on governments around the world to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics as punishment for China's human rights abuses which he said included the detention of Uyghurs in "re-education" camps and its crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

    "We're dealing with a government of intolerance, dictatorial, brooks no dissent, arrests people at a drop of a hat," he said.

    "I think there's a very strong case to be made that China should not be rewarded for its astonishingly bad behaviour."

    China 'unsafe' for Australian athletes

    A man in a blue shirt smiling.
    David Morris rejects claims the Beijing event will be dangerous for athletes.(ABC News: Chris Gillette)

    Crossbench senator Rex Patrick told 7.30 he supported a boycott of the games not only because of China's human rights record but also over safety fears for athletes who attend.

    "It's unsafe for Australians to go to China," Mr Patrick said.

    "I can't see a change occurring any time soon and indeed people need to consider that in the context of a decision to send athletes to China for the Beijing Olympics."

    But three-time Winter Olympian and coach of Australia's aerial ski team David Morris said it wouldn't be the first time athletes have competed amid safety concerns, citing the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.

    "If I think back to Sochi there were also some issues with security around that but at no point did any athletes feel any danger," Morris told 7.30.

    "The Olympics are a safe environment, they do everything they can and if that changes closer to an event we will of course listen to the sporting committees to advise us on the right decisions because that's their job to make that sort of call."

    Boycott pressure 'unfair' on athletes

    A woman holds a pair of skiis over her shoulder
    Olympic skier turned politician Zali Steggall has sided with the Australian Olympic Committee against the boycott.(AAP: Alan Porritt)

    The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) strongly opposes a boycott.

    Chief executive officer Matt Carroll told 7.30 politics should be kept out of sport.

    Winter Olympian turned independent MP Zali Steggall has sided firmly with the AOC and athletes in the debate.

    "I don't support the calls some of my colleagues have made for the Australian team to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympic Games," Ms Steggall told 7.30.

    "I think that's unfairly putting pressure on athletes for something the Government actually needs to show leadership on."

    Sir Iain told 7.30 he could understand why the Australian Government might be reluctant to further ignite tensions with China.

    He said other governments, including his own, could do more to support Australia over China's trade sanctions.

    "We are the guilty parties in this in failing to stand with Australia," he said. 

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