Diplomatic impunity: IOC should have boycotted China long ago – Sydney Morning Herald

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It’s hardly a shock that Prime Minister Scott Morrison lingered, hoping for the United States’ lead to declare that Australia would diplomatically, symbolically boycott attending the Winter Olympics scheduled to begin in Beijing in eight weeks.
The epitome of courage in that context would, of course, have been for the Prime Minister to announce Australia’s position before the breaking wave of Joe Biden’s decision. Reverting to type, Morrison instead elected to surf the tsunami of another.
There’s a delicious peculiarity, though, in Morrison’s justifications. The Chinese Communist Party has an unquestionably abominable track record when it comes to human rights. And that’s a statement made solely in the context of what the rest of the world does know.
The Party’s record is indeed so appalling that one’s forced to question whether the very concepts of the “inherent dignity of, and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family” (to paraphrase the grandiose preamble to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights) are recognised by the CCP, at all or even when it suits the Party.
From that perspective, it’s at least unusual but actually wholly irrelevant and unnecessary for the Prime Minister to also cite Beijing’s blitzkriegs of trade strikes against Australia (and apparently its refusal to return telephone calls made by Australia’s ministers) as ancillary reasons for Australia opting out of a junket to that renowned winter wonderland of Beijing.
Deploying any reasons other than the CCP’s egregious human rights abuses as the basis for eschewing Australia’s diplomatic presence at these next Games only serves to cheapen the message that remaining at home serves to communicate to Xi Jinping and his regime.
Australia will not send a delegation to the Winter Olympics in February but athletes will still compete.Credit:Getty
Bluntly, there’s an element of stupidity in linking unilateral trade sanctions and diplomatic rudeness to the CCP’s contumelious disregard for the human rights of its own citizens. It’s likely a terrifying actuality for a Chinese person to have no viable option available but to live under the iron-fisted rule of the communist regime.
A society-wide spying system that pervades and infects all aspects of daily life, to the point where suspicion of everyone and everything becomes normal. The almost-complete repeal of democracy in Hong Kong. The state’s unbridled and horrendous human rights abuses and possible genocide inflicted on the Uighur people. The death sentences, every year, on its own people which occur in multiples of those performed by the rest of the world.
Indeed, the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China prescribes the death penalty as a sentencing option for three dozen or more crimes decreed by the CCP as “heinous” but which might not rate even a mention on a 6pm news bulletin in this corner of the planet. In that context, it’s little wonder that China’s “justice” system hands down sentences in accordance with what the CCP intends.
And, of course, Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai remains disappeared, after last month posting on the Chinese social media platform Weibo her most serious allegations of sexual assault made against a former CCP official, who for years sat at the big table with Xi Jinping.
A visitor walks by the logo for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at Shougang.Credit:Getty
In these circumstances, there is no need for Morrison’s perfunctory justification for opting against sending diplomats to Beijing. For the Prime Minister to make that connection constitutes jingoism. That actually was not the basis on which any boycott or other stance of defiance was mooted, by any nation, at any point.
But with that all said, what actual value does a diplomatic boycott serve? It’s certainly not as if the Olympic broadcasters, sponsors, spectators or athletes are ever likely to bemoan the absence of the world’s freewheeling bureaucrats, top brass and other associated bag-carriers. I may know not much at all, however I’m certain that nobody’s ever gruffly mumbled the words “Geez, I wish there were more politicians here”.
Without reservation, it’s appropriate and indeed the only course of action available, that any stance in connection with these upcoming Games excludes the involvement of and deleterious effect on athletes.
Roughly three-quarters of athletes who make it to an Olympics qualify only once. One hundred per cent of those athletes have worked their proverbial arses off, for the most part of their lives, just to be in that moment.
Several countries have announced diplomatic boycotts of China’s winter Olympics.Credit:AP
But what’s the value in a diplomatic boycott? Does refusing to partake in the fanfare of the Olympic Games actually amount to a protest of purpose and meaningful consequence? Boycotts, of one type or another, are actually a pretty mundane aspect of the Olympic Movement.
For every threatened African Bloc boycott of the 1972 Munich Olympics, which eventually did result in the IOC banning the delegation from the former Rhodesia from participating, there’s many more examples of Olympic boycotts achieving not a lot: the tit-for-tat efforts of Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984 serving as examples.
The only certainty here is that China, of all nations, has no right to get annoyed with any other country if they don’t turn up to the Party’s party next February. The People’s Republic of China are experienced Olympic boycotters themselves. In protest, the PRC purposely didn’t send a delegation to the Olympics in Melbourne in 1956 or Tokyo in 1964.
The International Olympic Committee shouldn’t ever have awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing. This issue is what any nation’s protests associated with these upcoming Games should be about.
Zhen Weijie of China at a test event for the Winter Olympics at the National Ski Jumping Centre in Zhangjiakou.Credit:Getty
The real pressure that needs to be applied here, is not on the People’s Republic of China, or more correctly the Chinese Communist Party. Xi Jinping and co couldn’t care less what Australia and the Western world thinks, or does. Boycotts are symbolic; they achieve little. Sure it’s embarrassing, but the CCP will whack back, hard.
Instead, any protest must actually be directed at the IOC. Beijing was also awarded the Olympic Games in 2008. Russia hosted the snow-based variant in 2014, in an un-alpine Sochi.
The Olympic Charter proclaims, all rather breathlessly, that the core goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.
It’s a bit hard to swallow when Beijing is awarded not one but two Olympics less than two decades apart.
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