Social media users in China are blasting Chinese American figure skating star Nathan Chen, with many calling him a “traitor” for representing the United States at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Chen drew heavy criticism on Chinese social media platform Weibo after winning his first Olympic gold medal in the individual figure skating program and helping the U.S. team secure the silver medal in the team figure skating competition last week, reported Yahoo Sports.
Many Chinese fans unfavorably compared Chen to U.S. born athletes competing for Team China at the Winter Olympics, such as 18-year-old freestyle skier Eileen Gu and 19-year-old figure skater Zhu Yi.
Weibo users berated the 22-year-old athlete for his performance, with some calling his finals routine the “acrobatics of a circus monkey,” according to South China Morning Post.
Other users deemed Chen as “too white” and “Americanized” while also accusing him of “insulting China” due to his previous actions, reported CNN. Fans expressed their disappointment after Chen refused to speak in Mandarin during a recent post-game interview and claimed his command of the language “isn’t very good.”
Others noted how the athlete seemingly voiced his support for American ice dancer Evan Bates, who criticized Beijing for its alleged “awful” treatment of the Uyghur people during an interview late last year.
Chen also received online hate on Chinese social media back in 2018 following a performance at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in which he used a song from “Mao’s Last Dancer,” a movie about a dancer who defected to the United States from China in the 1980s
Chen revealed in a recent interview that his choreographer chose the song, and Chen himself did not know anything about the film prior to his routine.
“Maybe naively, I didn’t understand the whole system, the whole story behind it, just that the music was very beautiful,” he shared.
According to Chen, his lack of access to social media in China has shielded him from online backlash.
Highlighting the significance of Beijing in his life, Chen shared, “It means the world to be able to be here. My mom grew up in Beijing… And of course, my dad spent a lot of time in Beijing as well.”
Zhu has been subjected to similar criticism on Chinese social media despite choosing to represent Team China, as NextShark previously reported.
While Zhu moved from California to Beijing and renounced her U.S. citizenship to represent China at the Olympics, many still called her “too American” for not being fluent in Mandarin.
Zhu was also heavily mocked online for falling twice during her routine in the women’s single free skating event, thereby causing China to drop from third to fifth place in the team event. She has been told to “go back to America” for reportedly bringing “shame” to China.
Chinese users have a completely different view of Gu, who won gold for China in the women’s big air competition. She is beloved and widely praised on Chinese social media platforms for her success in her sport, budding modeling career, frequent and fluent use of Mandarin and stance on certain political issues.
Unlike Chen, Gu has so far avoided commenting on China’s alleged human rights issues in interviews. And while her defense of China’s internet censorship may have earned criticism on Twitter and Instagram, it appears to have endeared her to many Chinese fans.