August 06, 2008

It is now hitting the headlines and especially the blogosphere that China has revoked the visa of an Olympic gold medalist, and that very nearly just as he was about to embark on the airplane. The headlines make it seem as though this athlete was denied a chance to compete.

Nearly as I can tell, Joey Cheek, a former Olympic gold medal speed skater, was not travelling in an athletic capacity. Rather, he was attending these Olympics primarily in order to reinforce "Team Darfur", a protest organisation composed entirely of Olympic athletes. Sudan, the stated target of their protests, supplies oil to China.

Other athletes, less prominent, were to travel with him for the same purpose, and were also denied.

Last I heard, it is the prerogative of a country to deny entry to those whose free speech is for some reason found unacceptable. The United States itself has repeatedly denied entry to protesters and writers from other countries, even as innocuous as the Canadian Farley Mowat. The refusal may be protested, of course, and sometimes the other country may even change its mind: but if we are to recognise the sovereignty of a country, ultimately we must respect that country's choices.

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