The Covid-hit Tokyo Olympics have barely begun, but politicians from across the political divide are already calling for a boycott of the Beijing Winter Games.
The Chinese capital is set to host the event in February, despite international outcry over human rights abuses in Xinjiang, crackdowns on pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and cyber attacks on key infrastructure.
But a diverse group of MPs - including Liberals, independents, and the Greens - has demanded Canberra turn its back on the Games.
Liberal Senator Eric Abetz, a member of the powerful Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, has demanded Australian diplomats stay away "at a minimum".
"That said, I still have real reservations about athletes giving credibility to this belligerent and brutal dictatorship."
Senator Abetz conceded Canberra acting unilaterally would have a "minimal effect" but insisted there was growing international support, after US Speaker Nancy Pelosi backed a diplomatic boycott.
"There are countries now coming together saying: enough is enough. [It's] not before time, but better late than never and I am very heartened by this coming together," he said.
I don't think we want to have our athletes lending their good character, and our flag, to an organisation that is engaged in genocideRex Patrick
The Australian Olympic Committee, which holds the final decision on a sporting boycott, has rejected the idea.
The federal government could voice its displeasure by refusing to send dignitaries, but has so far refused to countenance the snub.
Senator Abetz has been joined by an unlikely ally, the Greens, which demanded diplomats and sponsors blacklist the Games until Beijing offered "unfettered access" to human rights observers.
"Given the Chinese Government's ongoing human rights abuses, the Greens share the concerns of many Australians," its foreign affairs spokesperson Janet Rice said.
Independent MP Zali Steggall, who competed in four Winter Olympics, was "not opposed" to a diplomatic boycott but warned against making athletes a proxy in international affairs.
"I think that's unfairly putting pressure on athletes for something the government actually needs to show leadership on," she said.
Independent senator Rex Patrick in December unsuccessfully pushed to give the federal government veto the AOC.
He agreed leaving the decision up to athletes was an unfair "burden", but said the matter should be taken out of their hands by a full sporting boycott.
"It is an event on which governments can capitalise, from a self-promotion perspective and a propaganda perspective," he said.
"I don't think we want to have our athletes lending their good character, and of course our flag, to an organisation that is engaged in genocide."
China has denied committing human rights abuses in Xinjiang, where the Muslim Uighur minority faced widespread persecution, and framed anti-democracy crackdowns in Hong Kong and Taiwan as its internal affairs.
Chinese officials have cut off dialogue with their Australian counterparts, while DFAT has warned Australians against travelling to China over the threat of arbitrary detention.
Senator Patrick claimed athletes and journalists, particularly those who had spoken out against the CCP, might also be at risk during the Games.
"There are no guarantees in relation to this regime. The difficulty is, once they make a decision to prosecute somebody, there's almost nothing anyone can do about it," he said.
Despite a crackdown on foreign journalists over the past 12 months, Human Rights Watch China Director Sophie Richardson doubted detaining visitors during the Olympics would be in Beijing's interest.
"[But] the fact that we have to discuss that at all is a reason the Games shouldn't be there," she said.
"If you'd asked me five years ago if we expected the Chinese government to lock up a million Uighurs, I would have said no. We just don't know."
She argued a sporting boycott would punish athletes "who have no say in the matter", but refusing political representation would prevent the CCP from "whitewashing its track record".
"There's plenty of room for governments to celebrate athletes as they go off to the Games or as they come back from them," she said.
"But they really shouldn't be giving the Chinese government this big photo-op, which I think recent history shows is a big part of [its] goal."
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