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Controversial Olympic Posters Cause Upset at U.S. University

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On February 3, five posters protesting the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics were circulating at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Though the artist claimed that the posters were meant to raise awareness of human rights violations in China, Chinese international students took offense.

According to the Australia-based Chinese political cartoonist Badiucao, his poster campaign was intended to criticize the Chinese Communist Party. More specifically, it targeted the controversial topics related to Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, surveillance, and Covid-19.

The posters soon caught the attention of George Washington Chinese Cultural Association (GWCCA), a student organization that helps Chinese students adjust to life in the U.S. and on campus, which released a statement on Sunday condemning the posters.

“The central ideas expressed are not based on indisputable opinions but, on the contrary, on highly controversial political disputes,” reads the statement.

Among others, the poster that portrayed a Chinese curler pushing away coronavirus, as the curling stone, is “the most outrageous,” GWCCA said.

Beijing 2022 covid poster

“Regardless of the personal identity of this artist or if he has any racist intentions, these works have troubled the Chinese and the Greater Asian community,” the student group wrote. “There is no justification for people to discriminate against people of their own racial group.”

The association also noted that the incident happened during Black History Month, and they encouraged other underrepresented groups to fight racism and prejudice. They also called for an official investigation and a response from the university at the bottom of the statement.

On February 5, Badiucao tweeted a screenshot of an email from George Washington University President Mark Wrighton responding to the controversy to an unknown student.

“Please know that I am personally offended by the posters,” Wrighton said in the email, adding that the school was “working to have all of these offensive posters removed as soon as possible.”

beijing olympics poster covid university president

The email response from George Washington University President Mark Wrighton tweeted by cartoonist Badiucao

Nonetheless, on Monday, Wrighton walked his previous remarks back and released a statement saying, “At that time, and without more context on the origin or intent of the posters, I responded hastily to the student, writing that I, too, was concerned.”

He continued, “Upon full understanding, I do not view these posters as racist; they are political statements. There is no university investigation underway, and the university will not take any action against the students who displayed the posters.”

All images via Twitter

Kayla He
    Born and raised in China, Kayla received her BA in Communications and Public Service from the University of Pennsylvania. She currently works as a staff writer at RADII and is passionate about telling stories related to social issues women's empowerment. You can find her exploring coffee shops in Shanghai in her free time or rushing for Duffy and Friends plush toys at Shanghai Disneyland.
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