On Tuesday, Feb. 8, Californian-born Chinese Skier Eileen Gu attempted to defend the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). She was being criticized on China’s social media app Weibo about her special treatment and how she, unlike millions of Chinese, can use Instagram. Gu nonchalantly replied that anyone can download a virtual private network (VPN) to access free internet. Ironically, her Weibo post was then censored.
Censoring a loyal athlete
According to Portal, a screenshot on Weibo showing Gu’s statement about Chinese citizens using VPNs for Instagram has been effectively removed. The original post remains, but the screenshot itself was blanked.
The post with the screenshot was shared 3,000 times before it was wiped from the site. Gu’s comment about using a VPN was also met with discontent by Weibo users.
“What is there to brag about a country where [that screenshot] can’t see the light of day?” a Weibo user asked.
“Gu Ailing is lying. VPNs in the Chinese App Store are not free,” another user said, calling Gu by her Chinese name.
Gu won a gold medal in the big air freestyle skiing competition as a member of the Chinese Olympic team instead of for the U.S., where she was born. She was criticized for “her citizenship and her identity.” Her critics only got louder when she attempted to defend the CCP’s draconian censorship policies.
Gu’s defense of the CCP suggested that she is blind to the plight faced by 1.4 billion Chinese citizens who lack basic civil liberties.
One Instagram comment pointed out that she could use Instagram, while it is currently banned.
“Why can you use Instagram and millions of Chinese people from mainland cannot,” the user said. “Why you got such special treatment as a Chinese citizen. That’s not fair, can you speak up for those millions of Chinese who don’t have internet freedom[?]”
In response, Gu, who has avoided any questions about her citizenship and identity, replied, “Anyone can download a VPN its literally free on the App store.”
Along with apps like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, VPNs are also banned in China. VPNs help internet users to hide internet traffic from internet service providers and to break through firewall censorship.
Hundreds of people have been apprehended and arrested by Chinese authorities for “climbing over the wall,” the term used to describe VPNs in China.
In addition to banning services, the CCP also requires local tech companies to cooperate in maintaining control of social media content. Many pieces of content are censored, edited, or removed as a result.
For example, references to the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou had been scrubbed from China’s censored internet and social media platforms.
The life of Eileen Gu
Eileen Gu was born and raised in San Francisco to an American father and a Chinese mother, a successful private investor named Yan Gu. Eileen decided to compete for China, where she would go for two months every year. There, the skier would be given Chinese education on top of her American education.
Although China does not recognize dual citizenship, Gu has been calm and collected over her status as both an American and a Chinese citizen. It is unknown if Gu had given up her U.S. nationality in place for a Chinese one.
“I think and guess that’s what she really thinks. After all, she is just a foreign guest,” said another user.
Eileen Gu is prone to criticism due to her apparent loyalty and glorification as a “national hero and role model.”