China revokes visa for American athlete

The Chinese government has revoked the visa of American gold medalist Joey Cheek, in response to Cheek’s plans to travel to the Olympics to support Team Darfur, a group of Olympic competitors whose goal is to raise awareness about the genocide and violation of human rights taking place in the Sudanese region. The Chinese government was apparently concerned that Cheek would attack their myriad ties to the government of Sudan.

While this is not the first time that the Olympics have been a venue for political statements, it is easily the most egregious offense since the end of the Cold War, and the first time since the end of apartheid that a gold medalist has been barred from attending by the host country rather than their own government. The Olympics are supposed to symbolize international unity and friendly competition, not the host government’s unwillingness to be called out on its (direct or indirect) support of genocide.

China is within their rights to keep whoever they want from entering their country. But it’s hard to take their propagandistic claims of openness and freedom, pushed by the government for the benefit of visiting journalists, seriously when they have no qualms whatsoever about squelching freedom of speech and activism.

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