The American-turned-Chinese Olympic champion continues to do nothing to prevent her political use by the CCP.
by Kok Bayraq
Eileen Gu (Ch. Gu Ailing) is an American-born freestyle skier who has competed internationally for the United States until June 2019, when she was authorized by the International Ski Federation to compete for China, for which she has won two gold and one silver medal at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. What her nationality currently is, is one of the best kept secrets in international sports.
Chinese netizens have said of her, “She has given up on the United States, proving the power of our country. It is our pride!” Americans have had mixed feelings, with some stating that she betrayed the United States, and others applauding her for deciding to represent the country of her ancestors. It is crucial to note that there are others whose interests have been at stake in the Beijing Olympics: the Uyghurs. They have something to say too.
In reference to disputes about her stance on human rights issue in China during the Beijing Olympics, Eileen Gu stated, “I’m not trying to solve political problems right now.” This might be acceptable if the politics of the Olympics host country did not include genocide. Ignoring China’s atrocities, including the genocide of Uyghurs, not only encourages the perpetrators but is in itself political.
The Beijing Olympics has been entirely politicized. All participants in the games played politics, either actively or passively, directly or indirectly, and in large or small ways. No Olympian in Beijing could say that their participation was entirely non-political.
Coming to Eileen Gu, as a star of the Olympic Games, by making an irresponsible statement, she played an active political role on the front lines, especially against the Uyghurs. In response to a question from a netizen, “Why can you use Instagram and millions of Chinese people from mainland cannot, why you got such special treatment as a Chinese citizen,” she answered, “Anyone can download a VPN, it is literally free on the App Store,” thereby glossing over China’ communication and media restrictions.
Today, at least 20% of the more than 3 million Uyghurs in camps and prisons in East Turkestan (Xinjiang to China) are being punished with charges of “distributing illegal information or leaking state secrets.” In November 2018, Anayit Abliz, a Uyghur teenager in Urumqi, was sentenced to three years in prison for having used a file-sharing application called Zapya and a VPN to communicate online the previous year. Downloading a VPN may be free but for the Uyghurs using it is not free.
Thousands of Uyghur activists and journalists, including Uyghur RFA broadcasters, have faced heavy retaliation from China for reporting on China’s media restrictions. For example, the 56 relatives of eight reporters in the Uyghur region have either been jailed or disappeared. Aren’t Eileen Gu’s statements trivializing China’s censorship offensive to the Uyghurs and other victims of the CCP?
According to South China Morning Post, Gu praised the Chinese school system as superior, saying in an interview to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV that, “My mother told me that studying in Beijing for 10 days equals what I could learn in the U.S. in a year.” This is a blatant lie. Many Chinese, including Xi Jinping, sent their children to schools and colleges in the US.
Regardless of the context of her statement, with its placement on CCTV and its Olympic timing, it was flattering to the CCP and encouraging its education system. Even though there were some education reforms in the past seventy years, there were no fundamental changes to the goal of the policy adopted in 1957: “toenable everyone to develop and become both ‘red’ (loyal to the Party) and ‘expert’ (trained for the job).”
The politicized goal of education was extended into the Uyghur region with the colonial content of “bringing up [a] generation to support unification of the country.” Because of this system, Sattar Sawut, former director of education of the XUAR, has been given a two-year-suspended death sentence for “separatism” and “terrorism.” Sawut was accused of including “extremist” content in children’s primary school books. Writer Yalqun Rozi and many others have been sent to jail for over 15 years for their involvement in the publication of these textbooks.
Clearly, Eileen Gu’s statements indirectly support an educational system sending Uyghurs and other real or supposed dissidents to jail. “I’m doing what I can, and that’s what matters,” Gu said. Reality is different.
Gu, who has been a vocal critic of anti-Asian discrimination in the United States, has not said one word against the discrimination and genocide of the Uyghurs in China. She has been actively involved in the “Black Lives Matter” movement, but she remains silent about the Uyghurs or any other human rights issue affecting the Chinese people.
She said that she transferred from the US Olympic team to the Chinese team with the goal of “inspiring hundreds of millions of people.” One wonder whether she ever heard about the Uyghurs, whose population is about 15 million. A rising star claiming to play a multinational role and inspire millions must be informed and must not forget that all peoples, no matter the size of their population, have equal rights on Earth.
Gu’s background is that of an elite family who long enjoyed the Chinese system. The Uyghurs may not expect any help or sympathy from these families, but they do expect a moral stance from a star who has appeared on the international stage, and support from someone who has grown up taking advantage of opportunities in the United States.
As a Uyghur American, I want to say the following: Ms. Eileen Gu, with your participation in the Olympic games, the statements you have made, and the awards you are receiving from a murderous regime, you are being political and you are standing on the front lines against the Uyghurs! Despite your talent, you will continue to be criticized, as long as you will side with the oppressor against the oppressed.