This article is over 7 months old
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has announced its members will boycott the 2020 Winter Olympics in Beijing unless China complies with its human rights obligations.
The move comes after the US and a number of European countries followed Washington in suspending support for the Winter Olympics’ host.
The China Development Bank, one of Beijing’s most powerful financial institutions, has had its credit ratings downgraded, according to a report in the Financial Times this week.
The report suggested Beijing’s economy, which has grown at more than 10% a year for the past four decades, could be losing steam.
“Banks’ lending is heavily skewed towards real estate, but despite the slowing economy, the Bank has continued to take loans and increase lending to property developers,” the report said.
Thai author back in prison one year after being cleared of sedition Read more
The Australian department of foreign affairs and trade confirmed it had been working on a response to China since a note was sent last month.
“The department has concluded that the risks China poses to Australia, which were not addressed in the current strategic dialogue in May, warrant a recalibration of our policy and engagement with China,” a department spokesman said.
“With this in mind, the department has taken the decision to ensure our policy of engagement with China is consistent with Australia’s human rights responsibilities.
“The department’s current strategy in relation to China remains to engage constructively and continuously with our Chinese counterparts.”
The department said its impact on Australian athletes and officials was expected to be “minimal” but Australia would pay close attention to how its stance affected its participation in future international competitions.
The AOC’s vice-president, Nick Green, said: “The regime has continually trampled on their principles. We have had no faith and never had faith in the Chinese Government as we find it to be frankly, not human rights compliant.
“The athletes and staff will follow suit and they should do so in future too.”
Green told journalists in Perth that even in the lead-up to the Olympics and beyond there was no reason why Australia would consider getting involved.
“We will ensure our athletes will no longer participate in any event where their rights would be compromised,” he said.
The move is expected to be a victory for two of Australia’s most prominent human rights campaigners, lawyer Julian Burnside and the architect of the Anzac Day marches, Jim Elmslie.
Burnside told Guardian Australia the move was a “tough decision” but a necessary one.
“It will certainly get members of the public and politicians on board to say that they have serious concerns about the China relationship and want the Australian government to take this opportunity to change that relationship with these human rights concerns,” he said.
“It’s obviously a tough decision, but not one we should be making lightly. It’s difficult for some people to understand the difficulties of dealing with the Chinese authorities.”
A Hong Kong-based human rights advocate, Ming Yi, said China’s state and party controlled media, which is highly controlled and restricted, described its Olympics boycotts as “civil society [protesters] going around America and Europe”.