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Olympia 2022: Uyghur torchbearer speaks out

The Uyghur torchbearer Dilnigar Ilhamjan has spoken to Chinese state media about her role in the opening ceremony in Beijing, which has been discussed around the world.

“This moment will encourage me every day for the rest of my life,” the cross-country skier is quoted as saying by the “Xinhua” news agency: “It was so exciting when I found out that we were chosen to place the torch. That’s one great honor for me.”

Together with the Nordic combined athlete Zhao Jiawen (21), Ilhamjan, which translates to Dinigeer Yilamujiang in Mandarin and is officially run by the IOC, set the torch in a gigantic snowflake on Friday.

Loud criticism followed, from the media, human rights activists and also the US diplomat Linda Thomas-Greenfield, whose government in Washington speaks of a “genocide” against the Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.

The Ambassador to the United Nations told CNN, “This is an attempt by the Chinese to distract us from the real problem that Uyghurs are being tortured and are the victims of Chinese human rights abuses.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) defended Ilhamian’s election. She’s taking part in the competitions as an “Olympic athlete,” said spokesman Mark Adams: “She’s absolutely entitled to take part in the torch relay.”

The Chinese foreign ministry spokesman called the “so-called genocide” the “lie of the century” and “malicious slander” that will not succeed. “We are pleased that athletes from all ethnic groups, including Yilamujiang, are part of the Chinese sports delegation and are participating in the Beijing Winter Olympics,” said Zhao Lijiang.

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