Joey Cheek, Olympic speed skating gold medalist and co-founder of athletic activist group Team Darfur, had his visa revoked by the Chinese government yesterday, a day before he was to depart for Beijing to support this year’s competitive athletes in the summer Games. This denial makes a very loud statement about exactly what kind of private citizens (i.e. those that don’t chair outspoken organizations that condemn activities of their government) China wants for the warm and fuzzy spectacle of the 2008 Games.
And they are within their rights to do so. As the NYT reported today, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement defending the country’s right to determine a person’s entry, explaining, “The visa issue is a country’s sovereign affairs… The purpose is to provide a proper, secure environment for people watching and attending the Games.”
Now with no international podium to stand on (and no highly televised fetes to attend), it makes sense that Cheek should worry about how now to shine a spotlight on Team Darfur’s mission.
[Cheek] had planned to attend a United Nations Olympic celebration and some charity events but wasn’t planning any big Team Darfur demonstrations. Now he’s scrambling to figure out how to draw attention to his cause back home in Washington.
We wondered that as well. However, considering the steadily piling stream of news articles hitting the hot list less than 24 hours after Cheek’s visa was pulled:
… attention might be the last thing he has to worry about. This may be the best “fuck you” that China could have possibly given to Team Darfur.org. RAD!
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