Olympic websites eliminate conflicting information on citizenship of star Chinese winter athlete

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The mystery surrounding the citizenship of US-born Chinese Olympic team star Eileen Gu has deepened, with VOA learning that two Olympic websites erased conflicting information about her status shortly after she won his first gold medal at the Beijing Winter Games.

The 18-year-old freestyle skier fueled speculation about her status at a post-victory news conference on Tuesday when she declined to directly answer questions from several reporters about whether she would remain a US citizen. She had just won gold in the women’s big air freeski event.

The San Francisco native, born an American citizen to a Chinese immigrant mother and an American father, switched her sporting allegiance from the United States to China in 2019, making the announcement on Instagram. But how she made the switch remained unclear. .

According to Rule 41 of the Olympic Charter, Gu must be a Chinese national to compete for China. But in order for a person to successfully naturalize as a Chinese citizen, Article 8 of China’s Nationality Law states that this person “shall not retain their foreign nationality.”

US authorities have not said whether Gu had renounced his US citizenship, a decision they generally treat as a private matter.

Gold medalist Eileen Gu of China celebrates during the medal ceremony for the Women’s Freestyle Skiing Big Air at the 2022 Winter Olympics on February 8, 2022, in Beijing.

In recent days, the lack of clarity over Gu’s loyalties has been a hot topic for social media users in the United States and China, two world powers navigating an increasingly strained relationship.

Many of these commenters didn’t seem to notice that the Beijing Winter Games Organizing Committee’s website, Beijing2022.cn, featured an English profile page for Gu with a biographical section that read: “After her first Coppa Italia victory in 2019, she renounced her American nationality for Chinese nationality in order to represent China at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.” The British news site Independent reported for the first time this information on his profile page on February 2.

The reference to Gu renouncing his US citizenship remained on his profile page when VOA reviewed it on Wednesday, indicating that it had been online for at least a week.

Screenshot of Eileen Gu's profile, February 9, 2022.

Screenshot of Eileen Gu’s profile, February 9, 2022.

When VOA reviewed the same page on Thursday, the sentence had been rewritten to read, “After her first World Cup victory in Italy in 2019, she made the decision to compete for China.”

Screenshot of Eileen Gu's profile, February 10, 2022.

Screenshot of Eileen Gu’s profile, February 10, 2022.

A quote she gave to her Austrian sponsor Red Bull in December and has since repeated in various forms, including at Tuesday’s press conference, was also removed from the updated version of her profile: “When I’m in America, I’m American. When I’m in China, I’m Chinese.”

The Mandarin version of Gu’s profile on the Beijing Organizing Committee website contains only his basic personal, event and schedule information without any of the lengthy background details of the English version.

Many social media users also apparently ignored conflicting information about Gu’s citizenship that appeared on the International Olympic Committee’s website, Olympics.com, during the early days of the Beijing Games.

In a report on Wednesday, Taiwan News noted that an Olympics.com article titled “Five Things You Didn’t Know About Eileen Gu” ended with a sentence referring to Gu as having “dual citizenship.” .

That sentence disappeared from the article on Thursday, according to a cached view of it from that date, as seen by VOA. An earlier cached view of the article reviewed by VOA shows the phrase had been visible online since at least February 5.

Screenshot of Eileen Gu's profile, February 5, 2022.

Screenshot of Eileen Gu’s profile, February 5, 2022.
Screenshot of Eileen Gu's profile, February 10, 2022.

Screenshot of Eileen Gu’s profile, February 10, 2022.

On Friday morning, VOA emailed the Beijing Organizing Committee and the International Olympic Committee asking why Gu’s citizenship details were removed from their respective websites on Wednesday or Thursday.

The Beijing organizing committee responded Saturday by advising VOA to contact the Chinese Olympic Committee, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Friday evening, the IOC emailed VOA with a statement that did not address the issue of quietly removing the words “dual citizenship” from its article on Gu.

Instead, the IOC statement says Gu “acquired” Chinese nationality in 2019 and the IOC Executive Board approved his “change of sporting nationality” in December of that year after the Chinese Olympic Committee submitted the necessary documentation, including a “copy of his Chinese passport”. .” He also referred further questions about Gu to the Chinese Olympic Committee.

VOA also messaged Gu on Instagram and emailed management companies evolution management + marketing and IMG, which represent his sports and fashion businesses respectively, for comment, with no response.

Susan Brownell, an American researcher specializing in Chinese sports and professor of anthropology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, told VOA that she doesn’t believe any of the erased statements about Gu, regarding renouncing his U.S. citizenship and having dual citizenship, are any more definitive than the ‘other.

Speaking in an interview on Friday, Brownell also said she believed there were two main reasons for the silence on citizenship issues from Chinese Olympic organizers Gu and many other 29 foreign-born and raised athletes. overseas of the Chinese Winter Games team.

China has never before fielded so many foreign-born or foreign-raised athletes on an Olympic team for the Summer or Winter Games. It has recruited the 30 athletes with foreign ties to its current Olympic team, including 28 ice hockey players, to try to improve its relatively poor performance in winter sports as it hosts the Winter Games to the first time.

“After the Beijing Games, they will assess the public opinion on the presence of these athletes in the team: was it good for Chinese sport, patriotism and the image of the government, or is there had a negative nationalist reaction? said Brownel. “It’s a politically sensitive issue that they would like to keep under control at this stage,” she added.

Brownell said China is also wary of publicly stating that it may have granted Gu or any of the other foreign-born, foreign-raised athletes rare exceptions to its nationality law. to enable them to naturalize as Chinese citizens without giving up their dual nationality.

“You have hundreds of thousands of people in China who really want dual citizenship. If you give it to the athletes, the others will immediately start saying, “What about me? I think that’s why you have silence,” she said.

Lin Yang and Adrianna Zhang of VOA’s Mandarin Service contributed to this story.



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