Eileen Gu has become the Chinese poster child for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Even though Gu is American, born and raised in San Francisco, she chose to represent her mother’s home country instead of Team USA, making the decision to represent China in 2019.
Not surprisingly, the American-born Chinese skier has faced a wave of backlash online for her decision to spurn Team USA in order to compete for China. But now, she’s facing criticism from the very country she represents.
Chinese citizens are blocked from using the majority of mainstream Western social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, a government system known as China’s “Great Firewall.”
Prior to her gold medal in the women’s big air competition, Gu posted to Instagram, to which a user noted the “special treatment” that Gu receives by being able to access Instagram. The following exchange was deleted, but not before being captured by a screenshot.
“Why can you use Instagram and millions of Chinese people from mainland cannot, why you got such special treatment as a Chinese citizen. That’s not fair, can you speak up for those millions of Chinese who don’t have internet freedom,” the commentator asked, according to Yahoo Sports.
“Anyone can download a VPN,” Gu replied. “It’s literally free on the App Store.”
Gu’s response to the Instagram user has drawn scorn, as many VPNs are illegal and hard to find in China.
“Literally, I’m not ‘anyone,’” one user wrote, according to The New York Times. “Literally, it is illegal for me to use a VPN.”
Last week, Gu won her first gold medal of her Olympic career, landing the first 1620 of her career to win the women’s big air competition.
Following the win, Gu had to face the music regarding her U.S. citizenship status, but she was unwilling to give a straightforward answer.
“I’ve always been super outspoken about my gratitude to the U.S., especially the U.S. team,” Gu said when asked if she had to give up her U.S. citizenship to compete for China. “I feel as though they’ve helped me out so much in my development, they continue to support me. And same with the Chinese team. They’ve always been super supportive and they’ve helped me so much. And so in that sense, I think that that speaks volumes to the ability of sport to bridge the gap and to be a force for unity.”
China does not allow dual citizenship, meaning that Gu would have had to give up her U.S. citizenship in order to compete, or China made an exception in order to allow Gu to compete on the Chinese Olympic roster.
“Yeah, um, first of all, I’m an 18-year old girl,” Gu said when pressed to answer. “I’m a kid. I haven’t even gone to college yet. I’m a pretty normal person . . .”
“If people don’t have a good heart, they won’t believe me, because they can’t empathize with people who do have a good heart,” she continued. “And so in that sense, I feel as though it’s a lot easier to block out the hate now. And also, they’re never going to know what it feels like to win an Olympic gold medal.”
Gu will participate in the final of the women’s slopestyle event on Tuesday.
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to email@example.com.
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