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Uygur Olympic torchbearer expresses frustration over Western media reports

By KE RONGYI | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-03-17 09:05
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China's Uygur skier Dinigeer Yilamujiang, who lit the cauldron during the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games' opening ceremony and is currently competing and training in Norway, gives an exclusive interview via video to China Daily journalists, who visited her family in Altay, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

When Chinese skier and torchbearer Dinigeer Yilamujiang lit the cauldron during the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games' opening ceremony at the Bird's Nest stadium on Feb 4, she had no idea that the simple fact of her presence at the Games would come under attack by Western media, which seek to create a false narrative about people of her ethnicity and their lives in China's northwestern Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

Dinigeer's mother, Ruxian Hatibaji, had brought together the family back at her home in Altay, Xinjiang, to watch her daughter's glorious moment on television. So delighted was Ruxian that she invited a local TV reporter over to film the big moment. Dinigeer's extended family gathered around the television to watch the opening ceremony, the elderly women taking pride of place on the sofa, and other family members squeezed out to the side.

Three days later, the happy occasion was featured in a report in a newspaper located halfway across the globe. The British tabloid The Daily Mail ran cropped clips from the local reporter's TV segment showing predominantly female members of Dinigeer's family gathered around the TV, asking "Where are all the men?", before taking the giant leap to suggesting they must all be in "concentration camps" or that this footage is "evidence" of "Xinjiang genocide".

"This is not the case at all. Our family has a lot of male relatives and friends. They sat in other places at home and that's why you could not see them in the video," said Ruxian.

It's not the first time such spurious and fallacious accusations have been placed side by side with anything related to Xinjiang.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, funded by Western governments and weapons manufacturers, has published "research "about how camps have been set up in Xinjiang and are detaining Uygurs en masse. But the "horrifying" camps were later found to be schools, hospitals and prisons where criminals are detained.

The Western media have not just gone after Dinigeer's family, but also the young athlete herself. The Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal ran reports suggesting she had "vanished" after she lit the flame.

In an exclusive interview with China Daily, Ruxian responded to the unjustifiable attacks by Western media. She expressed her frustration and confusion as to why these organizations with whom she has never had any interaction have chosen to baselessly attack her daughter and her family.

Dinigeer also struggles to understand. "Did I do something wrong? … I just lit the Olympic torch, is that a mistake? I am also Chinese. Am I not qualified to light the torch?" the 20-year-old said.

But the busy Olympian, who is currently competing and training in Norway, has no time to dwell on these reports.

"I don't care, I just want to focus on my training," said Dinigeer.

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