Australian MPs are urging the government to take a bold step against China as concerns grow around the mystery of Peng Shuai.
Australian politicians are calling for the government to boycott next year’s Winter Olympics in China over the treatment of tennis star Peng Shuai.
The world continues to fear for the wellbeing of the former Wimbledon and French Open doubles champion even after Chinese state media released photos and videos claiming to show she was doing fine.
The attempts to prove Peng’s safety, which included a lengthy call with International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, come after concern grew because she was silent for two weeks following her accusations that a top Communist Party politician, former vice premier Zhang Gaoli, sexually assaulted her.
Earlier this month it was reported US president Joe Biden is weighing up a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games in Beijing, and some Australian MPs are urging the government to consider a similar move in protest against China’s human rights record.
The proposed boycott would not affect Aussie athletes competing in the Olympics, which begin in February, but instead see no government officials travel to China.
Liberal Senator Eric Abetz is among those calling for a diplomatic boycott. “I would like to think that other like-minded, freedom-loving countries would follow suit, but it takes a leader to start on this and hopefully Australia can take the lead,” Mr Abetz said, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald.
“It looks as though the United States and United Kingdom are now giving active consideration to it and I just hope that as each and every voice is added, there will be sufficient momentum for the freedom-loving countries of the world to say to this dictatorship: ‘Enough is enough’.”
Fellow Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells took aim at China’s “bellicose and illegal actions in the South China Sea, ongoing human rights abuses, cyberattacks and its conduct in Hong Kong and Taiwan, demonstrate that Beijing is not a good international citizen”.
“The recent situation regarding Peng Shuai has added to international concerns. Accordingly, I continue to support a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics,” she said.
The Herald reports Labor’s Peter Khalil is another adding his support to a diplomatic boycott.
“At the very least the Australian government should be looking at a diplomatic boycott along with their allies,” he said.
“Yes, we shouldn’t mix politics and sport, but there does come a time when we need to draw a line.”
However, not everyone is on board with the possibility of a boycott. Australian tennis great turned Liberal MP John Alexander said “the whole idea of sport is it should be spreading goodwill” while Defence Minister Peter Dutton said: “The short answer is no (I don’t support a boycott), but that’s an issue for others to consider, if that’s something under consideration, (it’s) not a conversation I’ve been a party to.”
China hit back at critics over the Peng Shuai saga this week, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian saying: “I think some people should stop deliberately and maliciously hyping up, let alone politicise this issue.”
The pictures and videos published by Chinese state media purporting to show Peng was OK were widely suspected of being staged, while the IOC was slammed for being “complicit” in alleged Chinese propaganda for failing to address Peng’s allegations against Gaoli.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has threatened to end lucrative contracts with China unless it gets direct word of Peng’s safety.
On the videos showing Peng at a restaurant on the weekend, WTA boss Steve Simon said he was glad to see the images but “it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference”.
“This video alone is insufficient,” Simon said in a statement. “I have been clear about what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads.”