China savages American 'traitor' in ugly Winter Olympics furore

·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
Nathan Chen has been abused by users on Chinese social media sites after winning figure skating gold.
American figure skater Nathan Chen has been viciously attacked by users on Chinese social media after winning gold in the individual figure skating last week. (Photo by Cao Can/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Chinese internet users have dubbed 22-year-old figure skater Nathan Chen a 'traitor' and demanded he 'get out of China' after winning gold for Team USA in the men's individual figure skating.

Chen, a Chinese American who also helped Team USA to silver in the team competition, was subjected to a barrage of taunts by Chinese social media users for his efforts.

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Users were evidently angered by Chen's decision to represent the United States, many taking to Chinese social media platform Weibo to suggest he was 'insulting China' and that he was 'too white'.

Back in October, Chen threw his support behind teammate Evan Bates, who called out China's record of human rights abuses in an interview leading up to the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The US is one of a number of countries, including Australia, Canada and the UK, to engage in a diplomatic boycott of the Games over the issue.

Bates had condemned China's 'awful' treatment of the Uyghur population, with human rights groups estimating more than one million Uyghurs had been imprisoned in what the Chinese government has referred to as 're-education' camps.

Chen, who does not speak Mandarin and has elected not to do interviews with Chinese media on that basis, said he supported Bates' stance back in October.

“I agree with what Evan was saying. I think that for a greater change to occur, there must be power that is beyond the Olympics," he said.

The 22-year-old first drew the ire of Chinese social media during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeonchang, where he performed a routine to a song from 'Mao's Last Dance', a film about a Chinese dancer's defection to America.

Chen was again asked about the backlash he'd received four years ago, as well as at the current Games.

He said the choice of music for his 2018 routine had been made by his choreographer, adding that he hadn't understood the full context of the film - but also added that he didn't have social media on China, and was therefore somewhat insulated from the overly harsh criticism from Chinese viewers.

“Maybe naively, I didn’t understand the whole system, the whole story behind it, just that the music was very beautiful,” he said.

“I don’t have social media here. So I probably have been very sheltered from that. And I don’t plan on looking at social since sometimes social (media) can be a little toxic."

Nathan Chen, pictured here with Kagiyama Yuma and Uno Shoma after the men's single skating at the Winter Olympics.
Nathan Chen (centre) with Kagiyama Yuma and Uno Shoma after the men's single skating at the Winter Olympics. (Photo by Ju Huanzong/Xinhua via Getty Images)

China turns on Eileen Gu in staggering Winter Olympics twist

China's golden girl Eileen Gu sparked similar controversy at the Winter Olympics with social media comments about Instagram and VPNs.

Gu is arguably the biggest superstar at the Beijing Games after switching allegiances from the USA to China and winning gold in the women's Big Air.

And while it seems like the whole of China has fallen in love with the skiing phenom, some aren't happy with her recent comments about using Instagram.

Western journalists in China for the Olympics are finding it impossible to access services such as Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Google because of the country's "Great Firewall of China".

Even the Olympics-only wifi has restrictions, with local search engines not returning results for giant American publications such as the Washington Post and New York Times.

It’s all part of a concerted effort by the Chinese government to block internet access to certain elements of the outside world, such as social media, alternative views and Western philosophies.

Winter Olympics gold medallist for China Eileen Gu has been slammed for suggesting Chinese internet users simply use a VPN to evade the nation's strict internet censorship. (Photo by Wei Zheng/CHINASPORTS/VCG via Getty Images)
Winter Olympics gold medallist for China Eileen Gu has been slammed for suggesting Chinese internet users simply use a VPN to evade the nation's strict internet censorship. (Photo by Wei Zheng/CHINASPORTS/VCG via Getty Images)

There’s little recourse for China’s citizens to get to that content, even if they know it exists.

VPNs - or virtual private networks, designed to get around the so-called “Great Firewall” - are illegal to operate in China.

So when Gu suggested Chinese residents go and download a VPN so they can access Instagram this week, it went down like the proverbial lead ballon.

“Why can you use Instagram and millions of Chinese people from mainland cannot, why you got such special treatment as a Chinese citizen," user 'Cilla Chan' asked Gu on Instagram.

"That’s not fair, can you speak up for those millions of Chinese who don’t have internet freedom."

Gu replied: “Anyone can download a vpn, it’s literally free on the App Store”.

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