Calls for a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics continue to grow louder, with leaders from across the globe mounting pressure on their respective governments to take stock of the abuse allegations leveled against a top Chinese official by former doubles no. 1 Peng Shuai.
Australian senators and parliamentarians cited Peng's allegations to voice their concerns regarding China's dodgy record on human rights abuses.
Senators Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and Eric Abetz as well as Wills MP Peter Khalil are amongst the most prominent names to have called for a diplomatic boycott. For the uninitiated, a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics would entail a country not sending a delegation of officials to Beijing, whilst allowing athletes to participate.
"The recent situation regarding Peng Shuai has added to international concerns," Fierravanti-Wells said. "Accordingly, I continue to support a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics."
"At the very least the Australian government should be looking at a diplomatic boycott along with their allies," Khalil was quoted as saying. "Yes, we shouldn’t mix politics and sport, but there does come a time when we need to draw a line."
Responding to questions about the Australian government's official stance on the boycott, Sports Minister Richard Colbeck said a decision on Commonwealth representation at the Beijing Winter Olympics was "yet to be made."
"This is a matter that needs to be responded to with transparency and accountability,” Colbek said. “A decision on Commonwealth representation at the Beijing Winter Olympics is yet to be made.”
The latest development comes about a week after the Joe Biden administration made an official statement saying that the US was "considering" a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had at the time said the US would need to look at a "range of factors" before deciding on the nature of their presence at the Beijing Winter Olympics.
"There are areas that we do have concerns: human rights abuses," Psaki told reporters. "We have serious concerns. There are a range of factors where we look at what our presence will be."
Similar calls have also come from political figures across the United Kingdom and the European Union. None of the governments, however, have yet come forward with any concrete timeline for when they plan to take an official stand on the boycott.
While Psaki refused to give an official timeline for the discussion involving the matter, a spokesperson for UK PM Boris Johnson on Monday said "no decision" had been made on government representation at the Beijing Games.
IOC's stand on Peng Shuai issue comes under severe scrutiny with the Winter Olympics on the horizon
In the midst of growing concerns regarding Peng Shuai's safety, IOC President Thomas Bach held a video call with the Chinese player.
However, the 30-minute video call arranged by the IOC, which has faced criticism for limiting itself to "quiet diplomacy" in the entire episode, failed to alleviate concerns regarding Peng's well-being.
Human rights organizations, top athletes and other observers have called out the IOC's poor handling of the situation. Human Rights Watch's China Director Sophie Richardson went as far as calling the IOC "actively complicit" China's human rights abuses.
Richardson accused Bach of desperately trying to keep the Beijing Winter Olympics afloat by turning a blind eye to the "human costs."
“The IOC has shown in the last few days just how desperate it is to keep the Games on the rails, no matter the human costs,” Richardson said at a recent interaction.
The HRW also accused the IOC of participating in China's "government-created" narrative on Peng's case, a sentiment which has been echoed by observers and social media users online.
Several independent journalists, top athletes and Twitter users following the story voiced their skepticism surrounding the IOC video call with Peng. Multiple users pointed out an apparent lack of transparency, saying that the actual content of Bach's conversation with Peng was never made public.
Others also called out the IOC for releasing an official statement that skipped the mention of Peng Shuai's abuse allegations altogether. The statement backed HRW's earlier comments suggesting that the video call was nothing more than a government-orchestrated media-op aimed at smoothing over the issues heading into the 2022 Winter Olympics season.
Also ReadArticle Continues below