China's 'token' Uyghur athlete 'disappears' from limelight after 43rd place finish

China's 'token' Uyghur athlete 'disappears' from limelight after 43rd place finish
2 min read
08 February, 2022
Dinigeer Yilamujiang had lit the Olympic flame at the event’s opening ceremony, sparking accusations that China was politicising the event.
Yilamujiang avoided the media by slipping away through a ‘mixed zone’ on Saturday [Getty]

A Uyghur athlete representing China at the Winter Games in Beijing has quietly slipped away from the spotlight after finishing 43rd in her cross-country skiathon debut on Saturday.

Twenty-year-old Dinigeer Yilamujiang - the competition’s only Uyghur athlete - had been put under the spotlight by Chinese authorities, who stand accused of human rights abuses against the Muslim minority group ,which Yilamujiang comes from.

Yilamujiang lit the Olympic flame at the event's opening ceremony, sparking accusations that China was politicising the event.

Beijing has faced widespread criticism over its actions in Xingang, where up to a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been detained.

After her Olympic debut on Saturday, however, Yilamujiang avoided the media by slipping away through a 'mixed zone' alongside other Chinese athletes.

China's Olympics authorities declined to comment on the athlete's apparent disappearance from the media spotlight, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Critics have accused the Beijing games organisers of carefully stage-managing the Uyghur athlete's appearance at the games to counter criticism of China's human rights record.

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In one article published by the Communist Party's Xinjiang Daily, Yilamujiang is quoted as saying: "China has done everything possible for me, and what is left for me to do now is to train hard and bring glory to the country."

In another article from the same paper,  Yilamujiang's mother is quoted as thanking "the country for giving my daughter such an important mission".

The skier's family was also shown clapping and cheering enthusiastically during the opening ceremony.

China's persecution of Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslim minority groups in China has led to a political boycott by some Western countries, including United States and Australia.

Hundreds of thousands of mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in "re-education camps" in Xinjiang province, campaigners say, and Chinese authorities have been accused of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour in the area.

The United States has accused China of genocide, a charge denied by Beijing.