IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Canada, U.K. and Australia join U.S. in diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics

“I’m doing it because it’s in Australia’s national interest,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, citing human rights abuses. “It’s the right thing to do.”
/ Source: Associated Press

TORONTO — Canada will join the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics over human rights concerns, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday.

The announcement came after the White House, the Australian government and the UK government confirmed diplomatic boycotts of the Winter Games in February to protest Chinese human rights abuses. China has vowed to react with "firm countermeasures."

Trudeau said his government has been in talks with allies about it in recent months.

"We are extremely concerned by the repeated human rights violations by the Chinese government," Trudeau said.

"They should not be surprised we will not be sending any diplomatic representation."

The diplomatic moves by Canada, the U.S., Britain and Australia do not affect their athletes' ability to compete in the games.

Rights groups have pushed for a full boycott of the games, accusing China of rights abuses against ethnic minorities. The U.S. and Australian decisions fall short of those calls but come at an exceptionally turbulent time for international relations and have been met with a barrage of criticism from China.

The White House confirmed Monday that it was staging a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming games and Australia followed suit Wednesday, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying it was "in Australia's national interest."

Relations between Canada and China have been poor since China arrested two Canadians in China in Dec. 2018, shortly after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, Huawei Technologies' chief financial officer and the daughter of the company's founder, on a U.S. extradition request. Many countries labeled China's action "hostage politics," while China has described the charges against Huawei and Meng as a politically motivated attempt to hold back China's economic and technological development.

China, the U.S. and Canada essentially completed a high-stakes prisoner swap earlier this year but the reputation of the Chinese government has been severely tarnished in Canada.

"Concerns around arbitrary detention are real and shared by many countries around the world," Trudeau said.

Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said more countries need to take similar action."It is important to send a strong signal to China," Joly said. "Human rights violations are not acceptable."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Wednesday it should come as no surprise that Australian officials would boycott the event after the nation’s relationship with China had broken down in recent years.

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

Download the NBC News app for breaking news and politics

As well as citing human rights abuses, Morrison said China had been very critical of Australia’s efforts to have a strong defense force in the region, “particularly in relation, most recently, to our decision to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.”

He 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.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin denounced Morrison's announcement as “political posturing," but did not directly threaten the “resolute countermeasures" China vowed to exact on the U.S.

“China has not invited any Australian government officials to attend the Winter Olympics, and no one would care about whether they come or not," Wang said at a daily briefing. “The Australian politicians’ political posturing and hyping for their own political interest have no impact whatsoever on the successful Beijing Olympic Games."