VPN stands for Virtual Private Network.
China turns on Eileen Gu in staggering twist at Winter Olympics
Sun, 13 February 2022, 11:37 am
China’s golden girl Eileen Gu has sparked fresh controversy at the Winter Olympics with social media comments about Instagram and VPNs.
Gu is arguably the biggest superstar at the Beijing Games after switching allegiances from the USA to China and winning gold in the women’s Big Air.
And while it seems like the whole of China has fallen in love with the snowboarding phenom, some aren’t happy with her recent comments about using Instagram.
Western journalists in China for the Olympics are finding it impossible to access services such as Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Google because of the country’s “Great Firewall of China”.
Even the Olympics-only wifi has restrictions, with local search engines not returning results for giant American publications such as the Washington Post and New York Times.
It’s all part of a concerted effort by the Chinese government to block internet access to certain elements of the outside world, such as social media, alternative views and Western philosophies.
There’s little recourse for China’s citizens to get to that content, even if they know it exists.
VPNs – or virtual private networks, designed to get around the so-called “Great Firewall” – are illegal to operate in China.
So when Gu suggested Chinese residents go and download a VPN so they can access Instagram this week, it went down like the proverbial lead ballon.
“Why can you use Instagram and millions of Chinese people from mainland cannot, why you got such special treatment as a Chinese citizen,” user ‘Cilla Chan’ asked Gu on Instagram.
“That’s not fair, can you speak up for those millions of Chinese who don’t have internet freedom.”
Gu replied: “Anyone can download a vpn, it’s literally free on the App Store”.
According to website Protocol, a number of users fired back at Gu that Chinese citizens don’t have that sort of freedom.
Some suggested that if Gu is in fact a Chinese citizen – a question that she has deliberately refused to answer – she is enjoying benefits that her fellow citizens aren’t.
“Literally, I’m not ‘anyone.’ Literally, it’s illegal for me to use a VPN. Literally, it’s not f**king free at all,” one Weibo user responded.
At its morning briefing in Beijing on Friday, the IOC was asked if the deletion of the screenshots was a violation of Rule 50 of its charter, which allows athletes to speak freely on matters of their choosing outside the confines of actual competition.
However the IOC declined to comment without further information.