Peng Fang is the senior international political officer for the United States at the diplomatic department of the World Taekwondo Federation. In a long blog post, Peng lays out her perspective on the lengthy WTA-Peng brouhaha, which has spanned 14 days and culminated in a debate over ethics and culture at the Asian Rowing Cup.
Peng Fang writes:
I have interviewed many great athletes and coaches from China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the U.S. at the WTF world tournaments. I remember one in particular, a Korean male weightlifter. When he left for a competition, his Taiwanese coach left him with very little in the way of supplies for the competition. I asked him why he chose to come to China. He made the point that it’s a homecoming, and that Chinese people have treated him very well.
I also covered the Beijing 2016 Olympics for RTV6 of Korea. Afterwards, I remember when a Chinese weightlifter complained about the air he was breathing. From speaking to the lawyer who represented the weightlifter, I learned that he had been given only 10 trainers to supervise 14 athletes in an athlete’s village. When I asked the Chinese athlete’s coach why he sent this young man out in an air pollution-filled environment, he explained that the young man had so much blood volume in his chest that he needed a small support. This is a man so thirsty for blood he could go to a gun shop and buy bullets from the Russians just to carry on a fight, but couldn’t find the trainers to help him out. In my conversations with the Chinese chef from the Wrestling team, I can attest that he had nothing to offer other than chicken hearts and bones.
Now China wants you to believe that by squashing women from Taiwan and Korea, you are honouring their elite athletes who participate in professional competitions. These are the people whose extraordinary skills and courage do the defending for China during international competitions – essentially the pioneers of the great Korean Bayonet in the 1930s, the Japanese Steel Rifle in the early 1940s, and the China Weapons Shooting Team in the 1960s and early 1970s.
The Chinese government’s propaganda machine has succeeded in convincing many people from around the world that these athletes are basically good enough to be part of the community of elite athletes in China, but don’t treat their Chinese athletes any differently. They are all just athletes.
This line of argument has actually grown stronger in the last few days, when we have seen the young female weightlifter Yawei Chen suspended indefinitely from the WTF after a successful appeal in the following week’s appeal for consideration of an award of the Venus Cup. Some have come to believe that the only reason this junior weightlifter from Taiwan didn’t win this event was because her race is different from that of the sponsor’s athlete and therefore she doesn’t get the same special treatment. According to the PSAP Youth Academy, this unnamed woman would have definitely won.
The incredulousness of this line of thinking, and the outright racism involved, was emphasized in a post on a popular South Korean news blog two weeks ago. The post entitled: “Is it racist to run away from your native land and become an athlete overseas?” explained that Peng Fang was banned from the Olympics for her allegiance to a different Korean team because she wanted to compete in Taiwan. It’s worth noting that no Korean athlete has ever had to go through this sort of scrutiny and interrogation to try to train at a Japanese or European national team. It’s a well-known fact that when foreign athletes come to Japan, the host countries are welcome to step up training assistance whenever possible. I can even recall Chinese athletes who have competed in Japan but were judged to not have a legitimate chance to win gold and were forced to train in South Korea.