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Winter Olympics champion gives away gold medal to Chinese prisoner

Swedish speedskater Nils van der Poel, who broke a world record at Beijing 2022, takes a stand against human rights abuses by the Chinese government by donating his medal.

Winter Olympics champion gives away gold medal to Chinese prisoner

Nils van der Poel hands over his gold medal to the daughter of a Chinese prisoner (Twitter/Amnesty)


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 26 Feb 2022 8:35 AM GMT

In a rare act of defiance, Swedish double Olympic gold medallist Nils van der Poel has donated one of his gold medals to the daughter of a Chinese-born Swedish citizen Gui Minhai, who is imprisoned in China.

Van der Poel handed over the medal to Angela Gui, the daughter of the imprisoned book publisher, at a meeting Thursday, Amnesty International said in a statement. The statement said Van der Poel showed that "he is both an Olympic hero and a champion of human rights."

"I want human rights abuses in China to be reduced and Gui Minhai to be released," Van der Poel said. "It is a lot to ask, but it is the only reasonable thing to wish for."

"I do not speak for all Olympians, but I and my friends in sports have spent our lives striving for the top and the Chinese government uses our dreams as a political weapon to legitimise its regime. It became personal for me and I felt used," he said.

In earlier interviews, Van der Poel had compared China hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics to Nazi Germany hosting the 1936 Summer Olympics.

"Of course, I would have preferred that this was not needed. But it feels very good that the medal can represent solidarity for political prisoners like my father, and the countless other victims of Beijing's human rights abuses," Angela Gui said.

"This sends a clear message to China that persecution of peaceful critics is not accepted by the outside world," said Maja Åberg, policy adviser and expert on China at Amnesty Sweden.

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