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Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said there “is no in-between” when it comes to Olympic athletes choosing to represent certain countries and that “you’re standing for freedom or you’re standing for human rights abuses.”
Haley’s remarks, made during an interview with Real Clear Politics published Tuesday, specifically targeted Eileen Gu – a U.S.-born Olympic skier who participated in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics on behalf of her mother’s homeland of China.
“In terms of the citizenship, look, China or the U.S.? You have got to pick a side. Period,” Haley told the outlet. “You’ve got to pick a side because you’re either American or you’re Chinese, and they are two very different countries. … Every athlete needs to know when they put their flag on, you’re standing for freedom or you’re standing for human rights abuses. There is no in-between.”
Gu, who was born in San Francisco, has faced criticism from her own homeland for representing China in the games amid the country’s horrific treatment of the Chinese Uyghurs.
Haley made reference to the human rights abuses faced by Uyghurs in China, saying she still has trouble processing some images of those who are imprisoned. “I can’t get the images out of my head of people on their knees blindfolded, knowing what’s about to happen to them,” Haley said. “I can’t imagine in any way supporting that or propping up China.”
Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, said it is her “hope and prayer” that Americans understand “that China is the one that gave us COVID. China is the one stealing intellectual property. China is the one committing human rights abuses. And China is the one that has become a surveillance state that is now going to start dictating to our American companies, which is why they’ve started to leave.”
“At some point, we need to understand it is time to move on from China,” she concluded.
Gu, who has won a gold in the women’s freestyle and a silver medal in the women’s slopestyle, has repeatedly dodged questions about her citizenship and whether she had relinquished her U.S. citizenship to compete for China.
In a 2019 Instagram post announcing her decision to compete in the games for China, Gu said she is “proud of [her] heritage, and equally proud of [her] American upbringings.” At the time, Gu said the “opportunity to help inspire millions of young people where my mom was born, during the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help to promote the sport I love.”