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China Refused Entry of U.S. Olympic Gold Medallist Joey Cheek

Posted by Author on August 7, 2008

Owen Slot in Beijing, Times Online, UK, August 6, 2008-

Joey Cheek, an American Olympic gold medallist who has been leading a campaign to stop China from trading arms with the Sudan, has been refused entry to the Beijing Games.

Cheek, who won gold in the men’s 500 metre speed skating event at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, has recruited nearly 400 Olympians and former Olympians worldwide to his cause, called Team Darfur, and was refused a visa at the Chinese embassy in Washington yesterday.

“Despite the fact that I’ve always spoken positively of the Olympic ideal, and never called for a boycott or asked an athlete to break an IOC rule, my visa was revoked less than 24 hours before my scheduled departure,” Cheek said. “The denial of my visa is a part of a systemic effort by the Chinese government to coerce and threaten athletes who are speaking out on behalf of the innocent people of Darfur.”

Cheek’s organisation knows it has been pushing the human rights situation in Darfur hard into the public eye. Concern that their stance may count against them is reflected in the fact that, of the 72 Team Darfur athletes who will be competing here in Beijing, 17 have declined to be named publicly.

A statement received Wednesday morning by fax from the spokesman’s office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing said: “Visa is a sovereign affair of one country, according to Chinese laws and regulations, and based on other host countries’ practice on previous Olympics and other large scale events, China has made appropriate arrangements for foreign entry visas during the Olympic Games . . .”

Team Darfur was started following the Turin Olympics where Cheek won an Olympic gold and spoke out afterwards about how he was intending to give his $40,000 medal bonus to Darfur charities.

According to international experts, some 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million been driven from their homes since rebels took up arms against the government five years ago. China is a major investor in Sudan’s oil industry and is its largest weapons supplier.

– Original: Joey Cheek, gold medallist and Sudan protester, refused entry to China

3 Responses to “China Refused Entry of U.S. Olympic Gold Medallist Joey Cheek”

  1. FLMom said

    The US Olympic Committee needs to speak out on behalf of Joey Cheek and condemn the Chinese government’s revocation of his visa for the Beijing Olympics:
    Go Team Darfar!

  2. […] political heart on their sleeve at the games. Joey Cheeks (Olympic speed skating gold medallist) was refused entry into China because of his potential to make a political statement at the games in favour of his work with the […]

  3. Joe said

    I don’t think we should boycott the Olympics, just the opening ceremonies, which, of course, is tomorrow. We need to both honor the athleticism and condemn the money trail.

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