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Xinjiang skier becomes joint last torchbearer in Beijing

Xinjiang skier becomes joint last torchbearer in Beijing
Xinjiang skier becomes joint last torchbearer in Beijing 1

Xinjiang skier becomes joint last torchbearer in Beijing
The Olympic torch is brought into the Bird’s Nest Stadium by China’s Dinigeer Yilamujian (left) and Zhao Jiawen. (AP pic)

BEIJING: China chose a cross-country skier born in the troubled Xinjiang region to be a joint final torchbearer at the climax of the Winter Olympics opening ceremony today.

Campaigners say that at least 1 million mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in “reeducation camps” in Xinjiang, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour.

After initially denying the existence of the camps, Beijing said they were vocational training centres aimed at reducing the appeal of Islamic extremism.

In the final moments of the opening ceremony in Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium, the last two torchbearers were Zhao Jiawen and Dinigeer Yilamujiang.

Born in Xinjiang, 20-year-old Yilamujiang became the first Chinese cross-country skiing medallist in an international ski federation-level event, having finished second in the opening women’s leg in Beijing in 2019.

Chinese media has reported that she learned to ski as a five-year-old as a way of getting around her snowy hometown in Altay prefecture, northern Xinjiang, and that her father is a skiing instructor.

Yilamujiang trained in Norway for the last three years with the national team, according to a video on the Beijing 2022 Youtube channel.

“The only thing we can do now is train hard and win glory for the country,” she says in the video.

The video commentary also describes her ethnicity as “Uighur”.

The US and lawmakers from multiple western nations have accused China of carrying out a genocide against its Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, a charge Beijing denies.

Washington is leading a diplomatic boycott of the Games by a group of western nations including Britain, Canada and Australia over China’s human rights record.

The countries taking part in the boycott have not sent officials to Beijing but their athletes will participate in competitions.

Xinjiang skier becomes joint last torchbearer in Beijing 1
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