Sep 19, 2007

Australia says no chance of Beijing Olympics boycott


September 19, 2007

SYDNEY (AFP) — Australia on Wednesday ruled out boycotting the 2008 Beijing Olympics over China's human rights record.

Sports Minister George Brandis said Australia would attend the Games, despite allegations from the Falun Gong spiritual movement that Beijing is involved in "harvesting" the organs of jailed members and other dissidents.

Brandis said Australia would not boycott the Games even if the allegations were proven.

"The Australian government isn't making a link between the two issues," Brandis told parliament.

"There's no issue about Australia's participation in the Beijing Olympics being reconsidered."

The minister said there were other ways for Australia to address human rights issues with China, although he did not specify what they were.

China last month overtook Japan as Australia's number one trading partner, with two-way trade between the countries exceeding 40 billion US dollars as Chinese demand for Australian resources continues to boom.

China outlawed Falun Gong, which combines meditation with Buddhist-inspired teachings, as an "evil cult" in mid-1999.

Since then the group, which claims to have more than 100 million followers worldwide, has campaigned from abroad against what they claim is brutal persecution of their followers in China.

Earlier this year, Canada's former secretary of state for the Asia-Pacific, David Kilgour, and human rights lawyer David Matas released a report saying the Chinese military were harvesting and selling the organs of executed prisoners.

China denied the claims, saying organ transplants were strictly controlled. 

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