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Did China Break the Rules After Uyghur Olympic Torchbearer Stunt?

  A Chinese Olympic skier who was trotted out at the opening ceremonies for all the world to see has since been kept away from western media...

 A Chinese Olympic skier who was trotted out at the opening ceremonies for all the world to see has since been kept away from western media outlets.

Cross-country skier Dinigeer Yilamujiang is from China’s Xinjiang Province and belongs to the Muslim-minority group in the region known as the Uyghurs. China has been accused of committing genocide against the Uyghurs. Her opening ceremonies appearance whetted the curiosity of the media hordes covering the Olympics to hear what she had to say.

But she has not been interviewed by a western news organization since.

On Saturday, she was scratched from a team event in which she was expected to compete.

As noted by the Toronto, Canada, Globe and Mail, “her absence increased the sense of mystery that has surrounded the 20-year-old since she first appeared.”

China’s tactics in keeping her away from the media have raised eyebrows because they appear to violate Olympic rules, according to The Wall Street Journal and the U.K. Daily Mail.

On Feb. 5, the day when the world was abuzz over her opening ceremonies appearance, Yilamujiang did not appear in what is called a “mixed zone.” In the restrictive environment China has imposed on the Beijing Games, it’s is one of the few places reporters can ask questions of the athletes. 

Athletes are required to come and go this way. When the Journal asked about the rules of the day of Yilamujiang’s cross-country event, officials said they were in place as usual, but would not comment about her bypassing reporters.

If China did spirit the skier away without exposing her to reporters, and has kept her from the western media since, it is violating Olympics rules.

Yilamujiang, finished 43rd in the event, the 7.5 kilometer + 7.5 km kilometer skiathlon. She ended up 56th in both the 10-kilometer classic and women’s free sprint, according to The Washington Post

“Yilamujiang’s results and her absence Saturday casts additional doubt on China’s claim that it chose the 20-year-old for a prominent role in the Opening Ceremonies because of her athletic accomplishments,” the Post wrote.


The Daily Mail noted that other Chinese athletes have accepted questions from western media, but that Yilamujiang has only ever been quoted by Community Party-controlled media outlets. 

An example of those quotes comes from the  Communist Party-run Xinjiang Daily, in which she said,  “China has done everything possible for me, and what is left for me to do now is to train hard and bring glory to the country.”

In light of China’s heavy hand to keep the media away from Yilamujiang, Akshay Narang, political analyst for the Canada-based TFIGlobalNews, wrote that “China’s Uyghur propaganda has therefore fallen flat on its face.”

“[A]fter killing, raping and torturing millions of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang province, Beijing actually had the temerity to field country skier Dinigeer Yilamujiang as one of the cauldron lighters. The Chinese State media proudly claimed that Yilamujiang has Uyghur heritage,” Narang wrote in a piece published Saturday.

“But where is Yilamujiang now? Well, having used the Uyghur woman for sheer propaganda, China has now side-tracked her. After her Olympics debut on [Feb. 5], Yilamujiang avoided the media and slipped away through a ‘mixed zone’ along with other Chinese athletes. She has disappeared and Chinese authorities have declined to comment on her sudden disappearance from the media limelight,” he wrote.

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