AJWS Expresses Outrage At China For Revoking Olympic Gold Medalist and Darfur Activist’s Visa

AJWS President Ruth W. Messinger: Bush Should Reconsider Attending Opening Ceremonies

New York, NY; August 7, 2008—Ruth W. Messinger, President of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), issued a statement today expressing outrage that the Government of China has revoked the visa for Joey Cheek, a 2006 Olympic speedskating champion and outspoken advocate in the movement to end the genocide in Darfur.  

Messinger also called on U.S. President George W. Bush to reconsider his decision to attend the opening ceremonies in light of this development.  

Messinger said: “We are absolutely outraged that the Government of China has revoked Joey Cheek’s visa to attend this month’s Summer Olympics in Beijing. We had hoped that China would not try to silence the voices of those who speak out on its human rights record, and we once again call on China to live up to its responsibilities as an Olympic host.

“Joey was planning to attend the Games as a former gold medalist not only to support his countrymen and women, but also to support the numerous athletes who wish to use their participation to inform the world of this genocide perpetrated by the Government of Sudan, which has claimed more than 400,000 lives and left another 2.5 million homeless. Cheek was hoping to take advantage of this opportunity to publicly encourage China, as Sudan’s principal supplier of money and arms, to help bring a peaceful end to the genocide.  

“Amidst the excitement, goodwill and pageantry of the Olympics, we cannot ignore our obligations to those who suffer violence and humiliation at the hands of powerful governments—Joey was to be one of many athletes in attendance with the courage to remind us of tragedies that transcend sport.

“We are also incredibly disappointed that President Bush is still planning to attend the opening ceremonies despite China’s humiliation of one of our very best embodiments of a true Olympic champion.  We urge the President to reconsider.”

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