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Saperstein: “As much as we hoped that the Olympics would be a time of increased openness, China’s decision to revoke Olympian and activist Joey Cheek’s visa demonstrates anew its lack of respect for human rights and democratic dissent.”
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Washington D.C. August 6, 2008 - In response to China’s decision to revoke the visa of former Olympic Gold Medalist and Darfur Activist Joey Cheek, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
“The Beijing Olympics begin in just two days. As much as we hoped that the Olympics would be a time of increased openness, China’s decision to revoke Olympian and activist Joey Cheek’s visa demonstrates anew its lack of respect for human rights and democratic dissent. Mr. Cheek has worked to ensure that the Olympic Games are a force for good, toleration and openness in the world. Alarmingly, China’s actions demean those values and will have a chilling effect on any athlete who feels compelled to condemn Chinese human rights abuses. That one of the bright young stars of the advocacy community will be unable to attend the games, as is customarily the right of former Olympians, is a great disappointment.
When I had the opportunity to share a podium with Mr. Cheek at the Dream for Darfur Torch Rally this past December, I could not help but be impressed by both his passion and his keen understanding of the need for activism. He has leveraged his Olympic fame to spotlight the humanitarian tragedy in Darfur. He has worked to urge China to use the Olympics to show the world that it would not continue to be complicit in an ongoing genocide. And by co-founding Team Darfur he is also encouraging other athletes to help convince China to terminate its support of the oppressive Khartoum government. Team Darfur is a model example of how athletes can use their public persona and popularity as a force for good.
We stand with Mr. Cheek and urge the Chinese government to reverse its decision.”