What is really creepy about what’s emerged from the reporting of the gymnastics controversy is how state-owned agencies have rewritten themselves online to “correct” the record – in other words, rewritten history and attempted to expunge any contrary evidence…
What the researchers also found was that in several instances, the stories which had reported the ‘wrong’ ages – either written before the girls in question made the Olympic team or before anyone realized age mattered so much, the numbers were simply mentions in results-driven stories about various competitions – have been corrected to reflect the ‘right’, or state-approved, ages.
It is unlikely that a smoking gun will be found to prove that one or more of the Chinese girls was under-age, even if there is a lot of circumstantial evidence. The international gymnastics body certainly doesn’t seem to care, given it didn’t even query China’s story, which probably shows the depth of its “commitment” to stop young girls being exploited (one should note that there is no requirement on daily calorie consumption as the G & M observes).
So it makes the reaction of the Chinese authorities idiotic for two reasons – one as it only gives further fuel to those who doubt the official line and two because it demonstrates clearly to the outside world the Chinese State’s ability and willingness to manipulate the media. People only somewhat (or not at all) interested in China may have heard stories about censorship before, but with the attention this incident has caused around the world the subsequent “cover-up” has clearly shattered any possible reputation for media independence China has been trying to create (and will make it even more difficult to build any such status in the future).
The article finishes:
So, in the end, it’s not the Chinese gymnasts or how old they are that counts; it’s the Chinese censors propagandists and professional liars, and what they’re doing, that tells the tale.
One very said thing is that I doubt the Chinese authorities even realise the damage they were causing to how China is seen around the world.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.