Swedish Olympic speed skater Nils van der Poel gave his Beijing Winter Olympics gold medal to the daughter of a man detained for publishing a book criticizing the Chinese government to protest the nation’s human rights violations.
Angela Gui posted on Twitter about Van der Poel visiting her in Cambridge, England, yesterday, after he handed her his gold medal from the 10,000-meter speed skating event to honor Angela’s father. Van der Poel also won gold in the 5,000-meter speed skating event at this year’s Winter Olympics.
Angela’s father, Gui Minhai, is a Chinese-born Swedish publisher who disappeared from his home in Thailand in 2015 after releasing books that criticized the Chinese government, reported The New York Times. He reappeared on a Chinese broadcast stating that he had voluntarily gone back to China to serve a 10-year sentence, supposedly for a car crash from years prior.
Before the start of the Beijing Olympics, van der Poel read about Gui and his concerning situation, taken aback that someone holding a Swedish citizenship could be abducted and imprisoned for speaking out against the government.
After the Winter Olympics, van der Poel voiced his criticism over the Olympics being held in China and told a Swedish newspaper that it was “extremely irresponsible” to hold the Games in “a country that violates human rights,” reported Fox News.
He also felt that he and his fellow Olympians had been exploited as a “political weapon” by the Chinese government to “legitimize their regime,” reported Amnesty International.
The 25-year-old athlete has been a vocal advocate for the release of Gui, who holds Swedish citizenship.
“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,” van der Poel told Amnesty International.
Gui’s daughter Angela has also continued to fight for her father’s freedom even after having allegedly been approached by Chinese state agents, according to Amnesty International.
“I would of course have preferred a situation in which doing this wasn’t necessary in the first place. But it feels important to me that this medal represents solidarity with political prisoners like my father, and the countless other victims of Beijing’s human rights violation,” Angela said to Amnesty International.