Swedish Olympian gives gold medal to imprisoned bookseller Gui Minhai

Swedish speed skater Nils van der Poel has given one of the two gold medals he won in Beijing to Chinese-Swedish dissident Gui Minhai to protest against China's human rights violations, Amnesty International said in a press statement on Friday.

Swedish Olympian gives gold medal to imprisoned bookseller Gui Minhai
Swedish Olympic gold medalist Nils van der Poel met Angela Gui, daughter of imprisoned publisher Gui Minhai in Cambridge on Thursday. Photo: Private

Van der Poel, who has been fiercely critical of the decision to award Beijing the Winter Olympic Games, on Thursday gave his 10,000-meter gold medal to Angela Gui, the daughter of bookseller Gui Minhai, who is serving 10 years in prison in China on charges of illegally providing intelligence abroad.

“I am not the voice of all Olympians, but me and my friends dedicated our lives to strive for excellence within sports, and the Chinese government chose to use our dreams as a political weapon to legitimise their regime,” Van der Poel said in a statement published by Amnesty International.

“I wish for the human rights issues in China to improve and for Gui Minhai to be set free. It’s a lot to ask but it is the only reasonable thing to ask.”

Angela Gui, who lives in the UK, accepted the medal five days after the end of the Games. “He came to see me in Cambridge yesterday, where I accepted his medal on my father’s behalf. I think he’d feel beyond honoured if he knew”, she wrote on Twitter.

‘Extremely irresponsible’

Van der Poel was scathing in his criticism of Beijing upon his return to Sweden from the Games.

The Olympics “are a fantastic sporting event where the world and nations meet”, he told Swedish daily Aftonbladet on February 13th. But hosting the Games “is what Hitler did before he invaded Poland and that’s what Russia did before it invaded Ukraine”, he said, referring to the 2014 Sochi Games held just before Russia invaded Crimea. “I think it’s extremely irresponsible to give the Games to a country that so clearly violates human rights like China’s regime does”.

Gui is one of five Hong Kong-based booksellers who disappeared in late 2015 after publishing books critical of the Chinese government. Gui disappeared while on holiday in Thailand in 2015 and resurfaced in China, where he served two years in prison. A few months after his October 2017 release he was again arrested, this time while on a train to Beijing with Swedish diplomats. He was then hit with the 10-year jail term in 2020.

Gui Minhai was born in China but moved to Scandinavia following the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, and later became a Swedish citizen. Sweden has repeatedly called for his release. China insists the matter is an internal affair and has been stung by criticism from Sweden. China does not recognise dual citizenship, and Chinese officials claimed he voluntarily reinstated his Chinese citizenship in 2018.

Sweden insists he remains a citizen.

As recently as January this year, Swedish publishers demanded Gui Minhai’s immediate release from prison in China, arguing that China had arrested Gui on “loose grounds”. The allegation that he provided intelligence to a foreign country “seems to have been pulled out of thin air and casts long shadows over China”.

Amnesty called on the international community to increase pressure on China to release its dissidents. “Governments across the world should follow Nils’ lead by stepping up efforts to hold the Chinese government to account — not just over the unjust prosecution of Gui Minhai, but over its treatment of the many others jailed solely for peacefully exercising their rights”, Alkan Akad, a China expert at Amnesty, said.

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Sweden’s Armand Duplantis breaks pole vault world record

22-year-old Swedish-American Armand "Mondo" Duplantis set a new world record in pole vault at the World Athletics Championships on July 25th in Oregon, United States, beating his previous best by 1cm.

Sweden's Armand Duplantis breaks pole vault world record

The pole vaulter is a dual Swedish-US citizen born and raised in the US, who has competed internationally for Sweden since 2015.

Duplantis was the only pole vaulter to clear over six metres, at which point he had already secured gold in the World Championships.

Shortly afterwards, he set a new championship record at 6.06 metres, but he wasn’t finished.

On his first attempt to clear the 6.21 world-record height, he failed, but on the second attempt, he cleared with a 8.2 centimetre margin over the bar – meaning a new world record.

The crowd at Hayward Field, where the championships were held, went wild as Duplantis sprinted to see his father and coach Greg Duplantis, himself a former pole vaulter, and embrace his Swedish girlfriend Desiré Inglander.

“That’s his best jump ever,” his father said.

“It is great, I cannot complain!” said Duplantis, whose new mark bettered his previous best by 1cm, set when winning gold at the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade in March.

It was his fifth world record, and third this year.

“Actually, I did not think about the record that much today,” he said.

“Usually, it is always somewhere in the back of my mind but today, I was really focused on the win and I really wanted to win the gold so badly. It was the medal I was missing.

“So when I was on this height, it was like everything came together and it happened from there.”