Darfur Activist Barred From Traveling to Beijing
The Chinese embassy on Tuesday revoked the visa of 2006 Olympic gold medalist Joey Cheek, effectively barring the speedskating champion from attending the 2008 Beijing Games, according to a statement issued on Cheek's behalf.
Cheek is co-founder of Team Darfur, an organization composed of athletes attempting to draw attention to human-rights violations in Darfur. China is a major investor in the war-torn region of the Sudan.
According to the statement, a Chinese official informed Cheek that it was not necessary to "to give a reason" for revoking his visa. Cheek has planned to attend the Games to support to more than 70 Olympians who have signed on to support Team Darfur.
"I am saddened not to be able to attend the Games," Cheek said in the statement. "The Olympic Games represent something powerful: that people can come together from around the world and do things that no one thought were possible. However, 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 went on to say that he considered the Chinese government's efforts to suppress athletes a violation of the Olympic spirit. A North Carolina native and Princeton undergraduate, Cheek was scheduled to depart for Beijing less than 24 hours after his visa was revoked.
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