China’s male ice hockey team is catching attention for the nationality of its 25 members. Only 6 of them are ethnically Chinese, whereas the remaining two-thirds were “naturalized players” born in foreign countries, 11 from Canada, seven from the U.S., and one from Russia.
The situation is not much different in the women’s team, which has 11 Chinese-born players on their 23-member list.
Besides the fact that China has a strict nationality rule that forbids dual citizenship, this roster appears to have violated Olympic rules.
The Wall Street Journal cited Rule 41 of the International Olympic Charter of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that, “Any Olympic athlete must be a national of the country for which he or she is enrolled in the Olympic Games.”
The report said the nationality of the Olympians competing for China was one of the most highly evaded topics of the Beijing Olympics. Neither the Chinese Olympic Committee, the International Ice Hockey Federation, nor the International Olympic Committee answer questions about the hockey team’s large foreign players.
Jake Chelios is the most well-known foreign player on the Chinese team’s roster, but when he played for Beijing, his name was Jieke Kailaosi. When he confirmed that he and some Chinese teammates still hold U.S. passports, he said, “I don’t think we should comment on that” when asked if he had become a Chinese citizen.
According to the L.A. Times, officials from the team requested athletes to take such transliterated names.
It is difficult for the outside world to know whether these foreign players have Chinese nationality. German media D.W. reported that Chinese hockey officials have been attempting to limit media access to the players. Allegedly, they were instructed not to give interviews ahead of the Winter Olympics.
The report said American-born goalkeeper Jeremy Smith mirrored fellow American-born freestyle skier Gu Ai when asked if he renounced his U.S. citizenship after a defeat to the U.S. on February 10th. Ling said: “This is sport, this is hockey. I’m here to represent China. When I’m in China, I’m Chinese, I’m supported by the Chinese, and I’m truly thankful for that. And when I go to America, I’m American.”
Dong Guangping ( 董广平), a former public security official in mainland China, told Xin Tang Ren News that Beijing is afraid to reveal information about these players because of its double standards.
Dong, a pro-democracy activist, said that Beijing is very strict with its reinforcement of dual citizenship rules. But for the gold medals, it is ready to grant people temporary or long-term resident permits to represent it in the competition.
He said, “That in itself violates this rule of the International Olympics.”
British expert Mark Dreyer told D.W., “It quickly became obvious that Chinese homegrown players were not going to be competitive at the Olympics. It was looking very, very bad indeed, and so everyone was going to end up with egg on their face. China was going to get massacred on the ice.”
According to ESPN, China had spent generously on hockey infrastructure and player development.
Dong Guangping ( 董广平) said China used the money to acquire competitive international hockey players for the Beijing Winter Olympics. But that attempt has not brought fruitful results.
He said the foreign athletes playing for China were only doing it for financial purposes.
“Because they are doing it for the money, so when something dissatisfies them, their attitude will be reflected throughout the game. If one player loses attention, his entire performance will be affected.”