Aug 22

What you can do to verify He Kexin’s age: On subjectivity and procedural justice.

Written by bianxiangbianqiao on Friday, August 22nd, 2008 at 11:34 pm
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The International Olympics Committee (IOC) has found no proof that Chinese Gymnast He Kexin was underage. The issue was raised by the US gymnastic team based on their visual inspection; “they don’t look like 16, but a lot younger”. How much credit should be given to the subjective impression of the American competitors who have lost to Kexin and her teammates? Moreover, what can you do with your subjective impressions?

First off, here is my subjective impression on Kexin’s looks and age.

Chinese sixteen year olds have different developmental trajectory, different life experiences and different looks (as far as maturity is concerned) from their American and European peers; they mature more slowly. The progressively earlier onset of menarche (and its social ramifications) in North America and Europe over the last 200 years has been documented extensively in the medical literature. As of today, the age of menarche onset for girls in Western Europe is about 12.8 years. In a sample with over 1000 American subjects in 1994, researchers found the mean menarche onset age was 11.5 for White girls and 11.4 for Black girls. Average menarche onset age for Chinese girls is at least two years later, and as far as 4 years later in rural areas (at 16, see the editorial in Indian Pediatrics cited above). (This is the best information I can gather from reputable sources. I hope pediatricians familiar with the literature on comparative studies on maturation can join the discussion.) Besides, there is a well-documented negative correlation between intense physical activities (to which Kexin et al have been subjected at an early age) and age of menarche onset. Looking back to my last year of middle school (about 16 year olds), half of the girls in my class looked just as immature as He Kexin. To my eye, Kexin looks like sixteen years old.

Subjective impressions are highly unreliable, especially in cross-cultural situations. In my limited viewing of the games (I a busy man), I have found some of the European and American female athletes look shockingly counter-female; they look like guys, to put it bluntly, not only in the aggressive mannerism, but also in their bone structure, body shape and facial features. This subjective impression of masculinity in European and American female athletes was especially strong when they were defeating helpless Japanese and Chinese women in various ball games (a mirror image to the American/European impression of Kexin’s immaturity). We know that masculine physiques could be a side effect of a scientifically designed androgen supplement program. We know that androgen supplement programs have advanced to the degree that it can defy the best of testing regiments available to sports authorities. This is why Barry Bonds is still playing major league baseball in the US. We also know that American and European Olympians have a long and continuing tradition of enhancing their performance with hormone supplements. Marion Jones got her Olympic gold medals on drugs. British 400m medalist Christine Ohuruogu just got off a three year ban from competition for missing mandatory doping tests before competing in the Olympics. Was there a reason why she repeatedly skipped drug tests at the expense of a penalty worth of three years of her career? What should the world (Chinese in particular) do with the subjective impression that some American and European women athletes look puzzlingly masculine for women and have a suspicious record of submitting themselves to testing? Is the IOC clearance sufficient for us to accept the legitimacy of their performance? Should we demand more testing, more intrusive and extended investigation than what the IOC has conducted so far based on our subjective impression? The universal answer seems to be a “no”, for two reasons. First, notions of femininity and maturity are cultural constructs, with standards specific to each society (Chinese versus American and European). Subjective impressions based on visual inspection are often biased by the cultural-specific norms, standards and expectancies and may mismatch biological reality. Second, the IOC drug testing and age verification protocol is the accepted procedure for the Olympic Games, although we know IOC has failed to catch Marion Jones and other doping athletes on the tracks, and that Christine Ohuruogu is probably getting away with a dark secret right now. Accepting the protocol is respect for procedural justice. Is it too much to ask the same procedural justice for Kexin and her teammates? The IOC followed its protocol; they looked at her passport (which is the same treatment for all the other gymnasts). The thing is over; procedural justice is served.

Today the Chinese authorities provided more information at the IOC’s behest, including birth certificates, residence registration cards and ID cards. That is a very bad move; it is a show of weakness. From my extensive experience of living and working in the West, once you show your weakness, the average westerner will find it extremely hard to restrain himself, and the whole thing will escalate. Remember Saddam allowed hundreds of “UN inspectors” into his country but the United States and Britain invaded Iraq? Remember Kim Jung Il kicked out the last one UN inspector and the United States amicably sat down with him to negotiate? I hope the Chinese Olympic authorities will get themselves a backbone in dealing with their Western colleagues.

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137 Responses to “What you can do to verify He Kexin’s age: On subjectivity and procedural justice.”

  1. James Sweet Says:

    “Notions of femininity and maturity” may be “cultural constructs” but notions of age are simply mathematical. The girls were allowed to compete only because Chinese authorities thought it was more important to win than to follow the rules. Of course they’re going to be able to provide more documentation; they’re printing more falsified documents as we speak. They did it before, why should we expect they wouldn’t do it again? All of your other points are merely attempts to obfuscate the fact that rules were broken by Chines athletic federations in collusion with your government.

  2. Guo Dongde Says:

    It’s not about when the kids get their periods any more. It’s about a government coverup. Read more about it below:

    There’s been some widely publicized controversy regarding the competition age of the Chinese women’s gymnastics team recently. Rather than be too CNN, I decided to take a page from my friend Johnny and investigate on my own. I have an Internet connection, that means I should be able to verify the age of the gymnasts in question with primary state-issued documents and find out for myself if someone’s cheating, right? Right. Let’s go to work.
    First, the rules.

    1. Gymnasts must be 16 to compete. This means they must be born in 1992 or earlier.
    2. Only publicly available, primary, linkable information can be used.

    Who are we talking about?

    Let’s take a look at He Kexin (何可欣). Her Chinese issued passport lists her birthday as 01/01/1992, 16 years old and old enough to compete. However, allegations cited on her Wikipedia page put her birthday as 01/01/1994, fourteen years old and not eligible for competition. Which is the truth? Let’s find out.

    Let’s ask Google!

    First, we’ll search all Chinese web sites for Excel spreadsheets containing He Kexin’s name and the word 1994. (site:cn 何可欣 filetype:xls 1994). This seems like a pretty good search. Try it yourself! Here’s what Google gives us back, one measly hit:

    Wow, an Excel spreadsheet hosted on an official Chinese government web site (http://www.sport.gov.cn/files/jts/reg2006/zctc.xls) that contains the official birthday for He Kexin, awesome! Unfortunately, when you click on it, it’s been removed.

    That’s strange. Fortunately, we can click on “View as HTML” in the Google cache and see it. However, even though the Google search results indicate that He Kexin is listed in the spreadsheet, when you view Google’s cached version, her name no longer appears.

    What a strange software bug!?!? Oh well, I guess we should give up. Right?
    What if we don’t give up easy though?

    What about Baidu? Baidu is a Chinese language search engine with its own cache and search index. It’s different than google. So what if we run the same search on Baidu? Here’s the Baidu results, as of today, for the same search string: (site:cn 何可欣 filetype:xls 1994). For those who don’t speak Search Engine, that’s all Excel spreadsheets in China that contain He Kexin’s name and the string 1994. So, here’s Baidu:

    Interesting. Baidu lists TWO spreadsheets at sport.gov.cn with Kexin’s name. Not surprisingly, the new one discovered by Baidu has been been deleted as well:

    But what about the Baidu cache? If you click on the “HTML” link next to these XLS documents on Baidu (do it yourself!) you can access a cached copy of the document. This means that it was fully available… until recently. So, does Baidu’s copies of these documents have anything to say about Ms. Kexin?

    In the Baidu cache, which apparently has not been hit with the scrub brush (yet), two spreadsheets published by the Chinese government on sport.gov.cn both list He Kexin’s birthday as 01-01-1994, making her 14 years old. For as long as these links work, you can access the documents directly, either using the directions and screenshots above, or these links: cache1 cache2

    How official are these documents? Pretty dang official – they were issued by the General Administration of Sport of China.

    Much of the coverage regarding Kexin’s age has only mentioned “allegations” of fraud, and the IOC has ignored the matter completely. I believe that these primary documents, issued by the Chinese state, directly available from China by clicking on the links above rise to a level of evidence higher than “allegation”. The following points bear mentioning:

    1. Google’s cached copy of the spreadsheet does not contain Kexin’s age record, and Baidu’s does. This does not necessarily imply that Google allowed its data to be rewritten by Chinese censors, but the possibility does present itself.
    2. From the minute I pressed the publish button on this blog, the clock is ticking until Kexin’s true age is wiped out of the Baidu cache forever. It is up to you, the folks reading this blog, to take your own screenshots and notarize them by publishing them. If you put a link in the comments section, I’ll post it.

    In closing, I’d like to point out that this is not an anti-China post; far from it. While I may disagree with the effort the Chinese government is making to conceal this young woman’s age, I have the utmost respect for the Chinese people, and I believe that united they will be able to make state sponsored censorship a thing of the past.

    Digg This
    Update 8/22/2008

    * Referred to this story directly? Please see the rest of my blog, as I attempt to follow up in real time: strydehax.blogspot.com

    * Many readers have pointed out mistakes in this posting, including my use of the phrase “Ms. Kexin”, which is incorrect (the correct name order dictates the phrase “Ms. He”. I have decided not to modify my original posting. If I go back and change my mistakes, how can I comment honestly on the topic of online redaction?

    Update 8/20/2008

    * New to the story? Check out Part II

    * Well, this has hit Slashdot and appears to have legs. I am approving comments as fast as I can; bear with me

    * Readers in the comment section have noted that I misspelled Ms. Kexin’s name as Hexin; corrected

    * I have received several comments to the effect of “Who cares how old she is?”. In response: certainly not me. This blog is about government censorship and state sponsored fraud. I am attempting to demonstrate the power of free citizens to subvert government censorship. The finer points of gymnastics competitions are outside the scope of this post.

    * An alert reader has alerted me that perhaps the New York Times was the first to run across these documents, in their story here. In fact, it may have been visits by the NY Times reporter to the official web site that originally caused the Excel spreadsheets to be deleted. I find it unfortunate that at the time the NYTimes did not ‘notarize’ and redistribute the primary documents when they were found, if this is the case. Either way, it appears readers of this blog have taken up the torch. The truth isn’t going to be stamped out.

    * I am amazed at the outpouring of technical support and mirrors contributed by readers in order to preserve these records. I will continue to post every one I receive; thank you.

    * I can be reached privately via stryde dot blog at gmail dot com

    Here’s the link for comments: http://strydehax.blogspot.com/2008/08/hack-olympics.html

  3. Charles Liu Says:

    Jimmy boy, better submit your iron clad proof to the IOC, FIG… or USOC who is filing the complaint.

  4. FOARP Says:

    @BXBQ – Spare us the pseudoscience, please! There is no way you can go from averages to a specific case. What you have written could just as easily be covered in one short sentence: “East Asian females look younger than European females”.

    And the last paragraph is your usual trademark racism.

  5. werew Says:

    People shouldn’t compare gymnasts to normal human beings to judge their age. Especially since these professionals start at the age of 5 or 6. Gymnastics affects puberty/growth hormones/etc., and I bet there are plenty of papers on that. I think race thing does affect how old the gymnasts from different countries looks, but I don’t think He KeXin looks much younger than other 16 year old gymnasts from other countries, even when race played a factor.

    There are very few legitimate evidence showing He KeXin is underage. There are the news articles and the online document from Sports Ministry, which I both attribute to bureaucratic mistakes. Any long time observer of China sees that the Chinese bureaucracy is sometimes very inefficient, error-prone and stupid. Remember in Wen’an incident local press conference where an official read from script the father of one of the suspect is only two years older than the said suspect and in the same conference an official was handing scripted questions to reporters in board day light! However, for every mistakes that show that He KeXin is 14, there are 2 more documents that show He KeXin is 16.

    Also, I completely disagree with the last paragraph. Showing weakness and westerners can’t restrain themselves? That’s completely false, and you are making it into a cultural thing while it’s not. That’s international politics, but not everyday life. And showing documents upon the request of IOC is not showing weakness. If they didn’t show documents, it would look even more suspicious. Besides, US can’t touch NK because of China, and while they invade Iraq because Saddam the only ally he have is US.

  6. Charles Liu Says:

    Foarp, did USOC provide any scientific proof He Kexin is younger than 16? Or the complaint is based on some psudoscience?

  7. werew Says:

    @James Sweet
    “Chinese authorities thought it was more important to win than to follow the rules.”
    Really? Do you remember that Chinese silver medalists diver (or swimmer) that was banned for life because his tests came back positive on doping?

  8. Turner Says:

    I think that the reason this is being looked into by the IOC is because documents specifying He and others young age were found in Chinese national databases. This is the evidence I worry about, not what they look like.

  9. James Sweet Says:

    Well, Chuckles, I guess that means that you have 100% faith that Chinese government would not falsify birth records or passports to make their athletes appear eligible. Unless the sporting authorities responsible perform an exhaustive investigation, the weight of circumstantial evidence and the fact that it has been done before (Yang Yun of China won individual and team bronze medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. But according to the New York Times, she later said in an interview on state-run television that she had been 14 at the time) will have to suffice, and that the gold medals “won” by Chinese gymnasts will forever be tarnished. Feel free to allow your nationalistic pride to obscure both realistic inquiry and any sense of fair play you may have once had.

  10. werew Says:

    By the way, why is the atmosphere so hostile in the various post on this issue? Hopefully it wouldn’t deteriorate into a shout fest like many other online forums that I have seen.

  11. AG Says:

    Racism? Are you kidding me, FOARP?

    Have you ever been to Asian countries? It’s very typical for 16-year-olds to look smaller and younger than the average person or in this case, against their non-Asian competitors. Research past Asian gymnists in the Olympics and you will see for yourself that this is very common for Asians–I doubt most of you even realize that the Japanese gymnastics team are just as small as the Chinese gymnastics team but that’s not even considered because the Japanese gymnastics team did not manage to win gold or a medal over USA. Do I think that there is bitterness against the Chinese? Yes! And this is coming from a USA supporter especially in gymnastics.

    It’s so unfortunate and unfair that these allegations are highlighted to such extent that it demeans China as a country, host of this year’s Olympics, and as participants in the Olympic games. In fact, it doesn’t even seem like it’s about ‘rules are rules’ anymore but rather driven by racial discrimination with an immense amount of disrespect and inconsideration.

  12. Charles Liu Says:

    Jimmy, I’m American. I ain’t from Mainland China and I have never been citizen of the PRC a day in my life.

    Did the Chinese government falsify birth records or passports. I don’t have any proof. Do you? If you don’t what should the rules of fair play dictate?

  13. Tim Says:

    Goto this website and view all the documentation on He. It will show that not only she is underage but the Chinese are removing this evidence from their own government websites. Why would they do this if it was just a typo? These rosters are official documents usually made from documents provided on the athlete at the time the roster is made. Take a look for yourself and you deceide. Any documents being provided now are going to be fakes so we have to use the documents from the past that are saved on the Chinese web sites that they are now deleting.

  14. James Sweet Says:

    Please, this isn’t about race. I would be the first to want to see an athlete, any athlete, expelled and have medals stripped because of rules violations. But anyone who fails to see that this behavior fits nicely into the established pattern of cheating on the part of the Chinese government and then uses supposed racial differences to try to explain rules violations is either naive or willfullly oblivious.

    “At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, three years after the minimum age was raised to 16 in gymnastics, Chinese gymnast Yang Yun competed and won a bronze medal in the uneven bars (coincidentally this event is also He’s specialty). Yang’s passport said she was born on December 24, 1984 and turning 16 in the year of the Games, making her eligible. She later confessed in a television interview that she was only 14 at the time of the competition and that she and her coaches had lied about her age. As in the case of Yang Yun, the existing records prior to the Olympics — local registries, athletic records and news articles — were all correct, whereas the documentation she showed Olympic officials to confirm her eligibility proved to be false. It is no coincidence that He Kexin’s passport was issued on February 14, 2008, a mere 6 months before the Olympics.”

    If there’s no discrepancy, then there’s no need to fear a thorough investigation and to hide behind some outmoded notion of racial differences explaining away the facts of this matter.

  15. wuming Says:


    The causes of this current feeding frenzy are the previous failures, the “footprint gate” was extremely trivial, and the entire “lip sync gate” had collapsed. As for why the hostilities to start with has also puzzled me.

    On the other hand, people also may found our hostilities to the western media unexplainable.

  16. Tim Says:

    oopps here is the site……


  17. Tim Says:

    Just Click on my name…..

  18. James Sweet Says:

    Chucky, I have overwhelming circumstantial proof; I wasn’t there when He was born. If it would be permitted to investigate the matter thoroughly, I believe conclusive proof could be established. Right now all we have are a paper trail and a pattern of behavior. Do you have any proof that the Chinese government is above reproach and does not have the ability to falsify passports or birth records? As noted, they’ve done it before.

  19. Charles Liu Says:

    Wuming, so where does that leave us? standing on opposite sides of a mountain shouting epithet. You can try to move a mountain, but some people keep piling the dirt back on.

  20. Charles Liu Says:

    Jimmy, I hope you’ll never be convicted on circumstantial proof, such as people claiming you look guilty.

    He’s parents have stepped forward with birth certificate and residential registration. Somehow that may not be good enough still.

    And how do you prove they don’t have the ability to falsify passports or birth records? How do you prove a negative?

  21. byte_me Says:


    You may want to check out posts 143 and 172 of http://blog.foolsmountain.com/2008/08/21/has-the-he-kexins-age-been-changed-to-older-or-younger/#comments.

  22. werew Says:

    My perception is that it’s not a typo, but intentional fudging of document by a local authority or low level bureaucracy to qualify her for an age limited junior contest or for some other unknown reason, which eventually snowballed into this big scandal. However, why wouldn’t they fix it if it is a typo? Even if my perception is right, the most logical thing for the higher authority to do is to correct the document without much fanfare. Correcting it doesn’t make this scandal more suspicious to me.

  23. Tim Says:

    The Chinese will probably ban the internet forever after this. What is this residential registration they are talking about?

  24. James Sweet Says:

    Chucky my friend, blinders are a wonderful thing, as are rose-colored glasses. So all of the newspaper stories and official government listings created prior to last year were wrong. The passport issued last year, and the birth certificate and residential registration could not possibly have been created in an attempt to change the facts. I am afraid you don’t really know much about law, either, as evidence in a circumstantial case must meet the same requirements as any other case. If I were convicted on circumstantial evidence (see Scott Peterson) then I would be just as guilty. Even if the Chinese gymnasts looked 16 in either an Asian or Caucasian cultural view, they would still be guilty of breaking the rules if they were 14 (as I believe they are from Chinese news reports and official government sport websites). If these reports did not contain any semblance of accuracy, then there would have been no need for them to be ‘deleted’ after their discovery.

  25. Tim Says:

    Ok what you are saying is that they falsified the documents for her to be younger. Ahhhhh … Ok Im going to read the other blog that byte_me suggest….. back in a min

  26. Victoria Says:

    First, using anecdotal evidence is bad form for bloggers, reporters, et c. Unless you have any basis for what you claim, why should I or anyone else believe you? A great majority of this article is unsupported drivel. By the way, taking cheap shots at American and European women for looking “like guys” is mean and counter-productive.

    Regardless of that, you have a few things mixed up.

    Fact: Questions were raised about the gymnast’s ages based on official records found on a government website page and not just because they looked young. China has the largest population in the world, which means they have the largest number of possible athletes from which to pick, so yeah, they could probably find more people who were genetically adept for gymnastics.

    Fact: Media sources started raising doubts and suspicions in July, before the games begun, let alone any medals were awarded.

    Fact: There is already precedence for Chinese gymnasts’ ages being falsified. Yang Yun has been mentioned here already; I would encourage you to look into the case.

    Fact: One athlete cheating does not make anyone else’s cheating breaks the rules less. If an investigation can prove that ANY Olympic athlete went against the standards laid down by the IOC, they do not deserve their medals. If that occurs within eight years of the Olympics in which those medals were won, those medals may be taken away and awarded to the next-hightest ranked competitor.

    For someone who’s asking about the credit of subjectivity, you sure don’t seem to like objectivity.

  27. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    The heart of the issue is not about falsifying documents. It is about procedural justice. Why should we treat Kexin differently than Christine Ohuruogu, just because she is Chinese? Did you know how come Christine get into the Beijing Olympic in the first place? She got her doping test verdict overturned by a Brish court.

  28. FOARP Says:

    @AG – Did you read that last paragraph? My objection was to BXBQ yet again going off on some rant about how whitey is unstable and aggressive.

    @Charles Liu – Pseudoscience is thinking you can decide one way or the other whether a girl is or isn’t 16 based on her appearance alone. I’ve met plenty of girls here in the UK who look 13 but are really 18, and some who were vice-versa, I don’t need telling that He Kexin’s outward appearance is not evidence of anything except that she is young.

    My suspicions rest on the changes in the record – when newspapers make corrections they don’t do it in a way which wouldn’t allow you to see what they’d written previously, high-ranking officials don’t usually get the age of their athletes wrong in a way which would make them disqualifiable, official websites take their details from official documents and shouldn’t be wrong, and if they are wrong there should be an explanation. These changes were done in bad faith, in a fashion which tries to hide that they ever showed anything else.

  29. S.K. Cheung Says:

    This post is hilarious. Someone let me know if the IOC drags He in and asks her when her periods started. Bottom line is, there’s no test for age. So you either believe the authorities, or you don’t. I’ll bet most people have already made up their minds, and for those, no amount of investigation at this point will make one iota of difference.
    This post also seems to condense many race-based stereotypes into one small package.
    Tough to engender harmony when every request for clarification is seen as an affront to your nation’s manhood.

  30. Charles Liu Says:

    Vickie – Fact: Initial investigation by FIG cleared the allegation. Current investigation after USOC complaint has not found He Kexin to be underage.

    Fact: Yang Yun’s case is irrelevant.

    Fact: All the official docutments showing He Kexin with 1994 birth year are all from Wuhan, or have her birth province misattributed to Hebei.

    There’s another blogpost on the alternative explination her age was lowered by local sports authority in Hebei.

  31. bianxiangbianqiao Says:


    “BXBQ yet again going off on some rant about how whitey is unstable and aggressive.”

    Stop calling me a racist. My observations are cultural-based, not race based. Cultural differences in human behavior, cognition and emotions have been well established and accepted in scientific research.

  32. Hemulen Says:

    Circumstantial evidence? I have said it before, and I’m saying it again: taking part in and Olympic game is a privilege, not a right. If you want to participate, the burden of proof is on you to show that you have the required age. Furthermore, if the government that trains an athlete is also responsible for producing his or her identity papers, it is reasonable to set the burden of evidence slightly higher.

  33. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Charles:
    Why is Yang Yun’s case irrelevant? Goes to show pattern, your honour.

    And the alternate theory is just that, but no more.

  34. James Sweet Says:

    Fact: Yang Yun’s case is irrelevant.

    Yang Yun’s case is only irrelevant because you say it is, Chucky, and because it demonstrates direct evidence of the cheating you insist could not possibly have happened in this case as well. If you want I’ll pass along job listings for Blind Cheerleader in case the Logic Professor or Law Scholar things don’t work out for you.

  35. Tim Says:

    Ok, I read the other blog on this. I would still conclude that she is younger and not older as some are saying. One good reason for this is that all the documents being found show that she is younger and nothing is being found that says she is 16 except the documents that have been changed since all this started. Show me something from 2006 or 2007 that says she’s 14 or 15 and you might convince me. I don’t want to see anything from 2008. If she is actually 16 and now number one in the world we should have heard about her 4 years ago when she was apparently 12….right? Whatever.

  36. Charles Liu Says:

    SK, He Kexin has nothing to do with Yang Yun. Should every Canadia Olympian subject to complaint becuase of Ben Johnson?

  37. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Some of you are not engaging in a serious discussion on the issue I raised. The subjective feeling of “she looks to young to be 16” is based on a cultural-specific expectancy about what a 16 year old should look like, which is represented best with the average level of maturity of average 16 year olds in one’s own culture. The western norm and expectancy is invalid when judging a Chinese person. Is there anything invalid about this argument?

    The claim that Kexin looks too young to be 16 and therefore must be investigated is meaningless and frivolous.

    You can dig out as many old “records” from internet cathese as you like. But those data are not “official”. Not even the individual athlete’s statement is official. As IOC pointed out, the Chinese passport is the official documentation. This principle and procedure has been applied to Christine Ohuruogu and must be applied to Kexin. This is what I mean by procedural justice. More information should be provided by the Chinese on Kexin if the IOC launches a indepth investigation on Christine Ohuruogu on her skipping doping tests. Otherwise, Kexin is perfectly fine with her gold medals.

  38. James Sweet Says:

    Chucky, every Olympian is subject to the same testing–which has become even more sophisticated–as Ben Johnson, so yes, every Canadian athlete should be tested and tested again, whether or not there is suspicion of doping. As well, all underage athletes–when their sport has age restrictions, whether you think they are fair or not–should be subject to thorough investigation. If you would like similar thorough and exhaustive investigations into American or Japanese gymnasts, I think that would be more than fair.

  39. Hemulen Says:


    My observations are cultural-based, not race based. Cultural differences in human behavior, cognition and emotions have been well established and accepted in scientific research.

    In your original post, you said:

    From my extensive experience of living and working in the West, once you show your weakness, the average westerner will find it extremely hard to restrain himself, and the whole thing will escalate.

    This is not a scientific statement, it’s a statement based on your subjective assessment.

  40. FOARP Says:

    @BXBQ – I call them like I see them.

  41. Victoria Says:


    I would thank you not to call me “Vickie”. Using a diminutive of my name is insulting and rude, not to mention the fact that such tactics are often employed to make a person seem less creditable.

    Precedence is used to show a pattern or give weight to a particular case. If a country has already been known to falsify the age of one athlete, then why wouldn’t it be possible for them to do it again? A fluke is a fluke, but two flukes is rather unlikely.

    If investigations can turn up documents proving that He is 16, then I can accept that. If documents issued before the records that have come into question can show her birthdate to be in 1992, then I can accept that, and most likely so can the FIG. If it comes to light that her age was falsified to compete in a different competition, then she should be stripped of those awards but retain her Olympic medals. (I would need more details about that particular competition’s age requirements in order to form a solid opinion on that alternate theory.)

  42. James Sweet Says:

    “The claim that Kexin looks too young to be 16 and therefore must be investigated is meaningless and frivolous.”

    You are absolutely right. How she looks has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not she is 16. Whether she was born in 1994 or not is at question, and sources indicate that before last year she was born in 1994, and after last year her birth date was listed as 1992. Pains have been taken to erase any previous mention of her age as 14 without any comment or clarification.

    You are correct, her appearance alone is not a valid basis for investigation–but everything else is, so what’s wrong with a complete and thorough investigation of the facts?

    An answer of “Because the Chinese government and I say there is nothing to investigate” just won’t cut it, though.

  43. Tim Says:

    Bianx….. Trust me there a plenty of people digging for old records on the net since the chinese are deleting them as we speak. And just the fact that they are deleting them is proof enough that they are trying to cover something up. If they are just typos or making her younger why not just correct them instead of deleting them all together.

  44. Victoria Says:


    No, there is absolutely no reason to conduct an investigation simply because an athlete looks young. As I said before, that’s not the reason why the IOC has asked the FIG to give more information regarding He Kexin, and they have asked for it.

    Maybe Christine Ohuruogu should be stripped of her medals. That doesn’t make this particular case any less valid. It’s not fair when ANY athlete cheats, and just because one athlete has found a way to get around the rules, that doesn’t mean that another athlete should be let off the hook.

  45. bianxiangbianqiao Says:


    “Maybe Christine Ohuruogu should be stripped of her medals. That doesn’t make this particular case any less valid. It’s not fair when ANY athlete cheats, and just because one athlete has found a way to get around the rules, that doesn’t mean that another athlete should be let off the hook.”

    Then I am interested in learning why nobody in the West is chasing after her to investigate her history of skipping doping tests. Why is everybody so fired up about Kexin’s age?

    The heart of the matter is that there are protocos for handling such cases. These IOC protocos specify what information is admissible as evidence. The Chinese passport is valid evidence. The internet records, intriguing as they are, are not admissible as evidence. This may be a piece of technicality. However, procedural justice relies on technicality. As citizens of a modern and civilized world, we all need to understand this.

  46. TommyBahamas Says:

    This post came on site on August 22nd, 2008 at 11:34 pm and has generated this much traffic and responses in less than 3 hours! Perhaps this itself is a record of some category?

    Well done, Fool’s Mountain, BXBQ…This is quite funny, but also very sad….#19 Wuming, so where does that leave us? standing on opposite sides of a mountain shouting epithet. You can try to move a mountain, but some people keep piling the dirt back on.

  47. Tim Says:


    How are the own Chinese Records not admissible as evidence? Where do you get this from? Internet or not these are records that show something is not right. This is not a court of law so I don’t see where you get your evidence procedures from. The reason the IOC has asked for an investigation on this matter is based on this evidence that you are dismissing as internet records. And why are the Chinese deleting these inadmissible records in they hold no weight?

  48. Victoria Says:


    Runners typically dope during the off-season, or in off-years, so that they can gain the benefits of their illegal performance enhancers and yet test all right when they need to present tests. Not showing up for tests means that there is no way to say that an athlete is or is not doping. If someone were to investigate her history, all they would come up with, well, nothing. Even if someone doped in the past, unless an athlete is doping when they present themselves for testing, nothing can be done about it. It’s something that’s changeable, and there’s no good line between past mistakes and strategic cheating. A birth date is something that doesn’t change, and if it does… well, something is wrong.

    There are protocols for handling such cases, but the IOC is in charge of the Olympics and the FIG is responsible for gymnastics. If the IOC says that they want more evidence brought forth, then the FIG should go and get more evidence! They would have every reason to say that since such evidence does not meet their standards, then that would be the end of it. However, they have not done so, and so the FIG and Chinese government must respect that.

  49. James Sweet Says:

    “The Chinese passport is valid evidence. The internet records, intriguing as they are, are not admissible as evidence. This may be a piece of technicality. However, procedural justice relies on technicality.”

    The Chinese passport is valid evidence unless it can be found to be invalid. I’m not saying this passport was forged for certain, but since Chinese gymnast’s passports have been forged in the past, then the protocols are simply protocols, and further investigation may be warranted. A forged passport is only evidence of forgery, not age. This is not procedural justice, this is an investigation. And investigations do not have to rely on one party or another’s word. Also, I’m just as fired up about the judging travesty that Olympic boxing has become, as well as other problems.

    Just because someone is interested in this problem does not mean they have no interest in other issues are regards the Olympics. The underage Chinese gymnasts are just one of the stories I am following, please don’t try to turn what should be a thorough investigation of the facts into a matter of persecution. If rules were violated (again) then sanctions need to be applied. That’s it.

  50. Victoria Says:


    Technically, BXBQ is right. The IOC has said before that passports are what is used to determine whether or not an athlete may compete based on age limits. However, they have since said that they want the FIG to look into the case more thoroughly, and they are the authority.

  51. Charles Liu Says:

    And until then, He Kexin is presume to be innocent of the allegation.

  52. James Sweet Says:

    “And until then, He Kexin is presume to be innocent of the allegation.”

    Sure, fine. But if she wants to keep her name and Olympic record free of the dreaded * (asterisk, denoting she may not have been eligible) she and her sponsors will need to do a whole lot more in word and deed to reconcile the discrepancies in the records.

  53. Charles Liu Says:

    That’s what the 2nd investigation is for isn’t it? Unless you want a 3rd one when the 2nd one doesn’t go your way… The fact you assumed she deserves a “dreaded” whatever speaks volumn.

  54. Tim Says:


    Well the IOC has seen the Passports and stated that they were sufficient for age verification several times in the last couple weeks. But now they want the FIG to investigate based on what? Thats all I am asking. It seems the IOC had made their minds up until these inconsistant documents arose from the Chinese Gov website. So saying that the internet documents have no weight would not be true. And I agree with you that the IOC is the final authority so lets just see what happens.

  55. Victoria Says:


    Actually, right now I say that I have no idea what age she is. She’s either 14 or 16, but I am not entirely satisfied with either answer until there is more conclusive evidence. And yes, once this second investigation is concluded I hope that we can finally put this to rest (which is, incidentally, part of why this investigation has been called for). The “dreaded” asterisk is already there, as evidenced by the fact that the IOC wants records other than He’s passport. If she is still considered to be eligible after this matter has been settled, then she will be free from it, and not before.


    As James said, passports are only valid evidence if the passport itself is correct. Obviously the IOC has decided that there is reason enough to question the factuality of He’s passport, and so they are going to look for more evidence to prove or disprove what the passport says, specifically about her date of birth.

  56. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Charles Liu #36:
    Yang Yun admitted after the fact that her age was falsified. He is being investigated for the same thing. As I said, goes to pattern (on the part of Chinese authorities), your honour, and hardly irrelevant.

    Every Olympian, Canadian or otherwise, is under the same suspicions thanks to the actions of Ben Johnson, Marion Jones, and others. Which is why everyone, Canadian or otherwise, is subjected to random testing.

  57. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To BXBQ #37:
    you’re going to have to lay off the procedural justice bit, because the IOC can do whatever it wants, and right now it wants a PR eyesore to go away. You can save the quasi-legal speak for the International Court of Sports, if it ever gets that far.

  58. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To James Sweet #42:

  59. Jacky Ma Says:

    First I want to say, this blog is awesome and really embodies the ideals of the web (for good and bad).

    First and foremost, I was born in mainland China and moved to Canada, but am still very proud of China and what it has achieved. My opinion is that, the investigations will not produce a result that will satisfy both parties. Gov’t issued passports, forged or not cannot be proven invalid by a body like the FIG, you’ll need something like the CIA for that. To accuse a government of producing fake passports has implications beyond olympics. I get the feeling the argument isn’t over He’s age, its over the fact that people are accusing China, and since the western medias has shown to be bias, China’s reaction is automatically defensive. Funny thing is, I’d bet a million dollars He is 14, but it will never be proven. IOC knew that.

  60. Charles Liu Says:

    SK @ 56, I’m talking about Canadian Olymians subject to protest based on the Ben Johnson “pattern”.

  61. pug_ster Says:

    I think the problem with this situation is the slow or non response with the Chinese government, unlike the situation with the Sichuan earthquake and the unfortunate death of the American closely tied with the US volleyball team. The cached website is nothing but blood in the water for the Western Media and the Chinese government or the BCOG have no official explanation of why the website has the birthdate 1/1/94.

    I think an official explanation by the Chinese government or the BCOG of why there was a discrepancy of the wrong age was in the website first place would dispel any doubt made. I think the Western Media and the IOC would pipe down instead of producing more rumors.

  62. TommyBahamas Says:

    YEAH, BRONZE medal for China Women’s VolleyBall — Perhaps the most exciting non-Gold match of this Olympic Game: China Vs Cuba.

    *Sigh* So the IOC responded after being prodded by U.S. officials to take one last look at the true ages of medal winners He Kexin, Yang Yilin and others. It is painfully obvious to all, there’s some motivation behind the U.S. request.Should the Chinese be found to be underage, there’s a couple of gold medals that could be inherited. I do trust the Western media — not so much their Main Stream Media, though — but even Herald Tribune International an hour or so ago conceded on this matter. The some MSM have made fools of themselves nitpicking & politicizing the games for 7 years leading up to and even at the most spectacular Olympic Opening ceremony — ever — at the expenses of 2 very talented girls, then 3 incredible gymnists — all for naught — Pathetic!
    OK, that’s the MSM for ya. Yet despite all their biases, wats and all, authoritarian countries’ MSM still have a lot of catching up to match their counterparts’ albeitdicey credibility. So, Can we now shake hands and resume working on removing the cultural pebbles, rocks and bolders together?

  63. Squill Says:

    I am puzzled why some bring up Ben Johnson or Christine Ohuruogu in this blog. Its not all that rare to find cheaters in these competitions. However, the country of the cheater is not usually accused of complicity. The Canadian officials were never accused of knowing that Ben Johnson was using drugs yet still allowing him to compete. Neither were British officials accused of wrongdoing involving Ohuruogu’s missed doping tests. This is not a question of Ms.He lying to the IOC or to her own country’s officials about her age, but rather the possibility that those officials lied to the IOC. It is a question of a country’s officials sanctioning cheating. That’s a little sexier. You know, large dimly lit smoke filled room with vaulted ceilings and marble columns…precious young girl standing before large highbacked chair occupied by a faceless uniformed man petting an ocelot asking her to lie for her country. There’s only one person who can resolve this one and it’s not the president of the IOC, or the Premier of China or even Bella Karoly. We need to put in a call to 007.

    Also, if the Chinese teams recruits girls at 3 does that mean that Ms He might have waddled into the gym when she was 1 and lied about her age? “No more balance beam until we change those diapers, Sweety.”

  64. Chinawatcher Says:

    @bxbq and Charles Liu

    As people who are “invested” in China (and I don’t mean financially, but in an emotional sense, in the same way that I and many others are “invested” in China), you have to zoom out, get a sense of the big picture and do some introspection to figure out what the He Kexin episode means for China in the long term.

    It’s entirely possible that at the end of the day the IOC, in the absence of powers of a criminal court, will rule that it has no proof to establish that He Kexin is underaged. She will keep her medals – and unless she goes public two years later in the way that Yang Yun did – the record books will reflect that. But does that mean China has emerged from this entire episode with its “face” intact?

    In the court of international public opinion – which may not mean anything but is a critical intangible (even to you, for if it didn’t matter, why would you Fools be attemping to move the Mountain here?) – China will be seen to have gotten away with cheating in these Olympics.

    And, for all your protestations, it will not have been the fault of the “western media”. It would have been the fault of a sporting system within China that for whatever reason (as established in your earlier blog post) resorts to wilful misrepresentations of the truth in the matter of gymnasts’ age. And hides its tracks – inexpertly – when it’s caught out on a lie. That is, as you yourself acknowledged, a can of worms. And until there is demonstrable proof going forward that China has remedied that blot, public opinion (and the “western media”) will form their opinions based on the circumstantial evidence available so far, and there’s nothing you can do about that. These are:

    (a) Archived media reports that showed He Kexin’s age as 14 – but were deleted and reposted with post-facto amendments to her age. (When you cover up, and do it clumsily, you will be perceived to be guilty, even if the jury lets you off for want of evidence.)

    (b) Archived government databases (as dug out by Stryde Hax) that showed He Kexin’s age as 14 – which, again, have since been deleted. Again, when you cover up, and do it clumsily, you will be perceived to be guilty, even if you walk free.

    (c) Precedent: the Yang Yun case, which establishes that China has in the past been guilty of the same offence that it now stands accused of.

    Popular opinion, even if it’s biased (as it sometimes is), *does* matter. To my view, it should be a matter of serious concern for China (and to you at Fool’s Mountain) that China might probably be seen to have cheated even when the IOC lets it off for want of evidence. You have to worry about why, even among waiguoren who are in China and who “know” China (unlike those who pass judgements from across the world), Official China’s word doesn’t count for much in matters like these. As everything from the cover-up of the SARS case to the lead-toy-poison episodes indicate, these are the markers of how China is perceived in the world – and how Brand China is impacted as a result. You cannot wish it away: that’s the way the world works.

    How can this image gap be bridged? It would help, seriously, for China to clean up its act and become transparent: whether it’s gymnasts age or protest parks (where no one protested), being transparent averts bad PR. And slowly, over time, that has the capacity to change perceptions of China.

    Until then, to fret about procedural justice and picking on western media and painting them as “sore losers” is to be in complete denial about where the real problem lies.

  65. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Chinawatcher:

  66. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Pug_ster:
    that part would be easy. Someone just has to say that the Chinese government or BOCOG made a mistake with the initial website posting. Problem is that would be self-serving. And we all know the aversion of Chinese authorities to admitting mistakes.

  67. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Charles Liu:
    Ben Johnson didn’t have a “pattern”; he “won” in Seoul, then failed his urine test. End of story, bye-bye gold medal. If there was a urine test for age, this story would’ve been done days ago.
    These days, Canadian or not, medalist or not, the burden is on the athlete to prove they’re clean. Hence the frequent random testing. In a sense, there is no presumed innocence if you want to compete at these levels. So I’m not really sure what you’re alluding to.
    THis is in stark contrast to the current “pattern” in question, where the authorities helped one athlete cheat, and now the identical scenario is raised against another athlete in the same system.

  68. PaZhuLian Says:

    This is getting surreal. Now that the Chinese government has provided additional document, including birth certificate, I think IOC has done the right thing to declare “case closed” and stay out of the role of an arbitrator, because this is no longer an issue about the sports.

    Let’s face it. There are only two type of conclusion that people can draw depending on their personal opinion.
    1. The girl is 16. The whole controversy was a result of a simple mistake blown out of proportion by a clumsy effort to correct it and the ensuing media feeding frenzy.
    2. The government has determined to cover up its lie with more lies by issuing forged birth certificate.

    No matter which conclusion you draw, there is really no sense having any more investigations, unless you manage to kidnap her out of China and set her up for an appointment with some world renowned forensic scientists not named Henry Lee to see if she still has her baby molars.

    Now if people want to keep milking this “scandal” and hope it will help shame the Chinese into overthrowing their government, more power to you and good luck with that.

    But if some of you want to keep on investigating because you have some unhealthy fascination with certain personal information about these girls, whom you consider under-aged, then shame on you!

  69. ted Says:

    “The International Olympics Committee (IOC) has found no proof that Chinese Gymnast He Kexin was underage. The issue was raised by the US gymnastic team based on their visual inspection; “they don’t look like 16, but a lot younger”. How much credit should be given to the subjective impression of the American competitors who have lost to Kexin and her teammates? Moreover, what can you do with your subjective impressions?”

    I think the current round of investigations was launched by the web documents and not by the U.S. team’s subjective observations. This post appears to be aimed at diluting the issue at hand.

  70. EugeneZ Says:

    Anyone still remember the “hanging chads” during the 2000 Florida Gore vs. Bush presidential election? There are a lot of similarities. For those who voted for Gore like myself, we still believe that Gore had won Florida and should have been the president for the last 8 years. But precedural justice was served, and the suprior court ruled in favor of Bush – that was the end of story as far as “keeping the gold medal” is concerned.

    In the case of He Kexin, I can not make up my mind about what has really happened. I think that it is still possible that someday the truth will come out that someone within the Chinese sports authority rank had cheated. Even that is the case, I would not worry too much about it, it is just human nature, it could as well happen in any country, it is not a big deal as far as China is concerned – China is much bigger than this.

    For now, procedural justice has been served and should be respected, Kexin gets to keep her gold medal. For those of you who are still fighting, I have three words for you – “get over it”. As disasterous as it has been, we are about to get over 8 years of Bush.

  71. TommyBahamas Says:


    Nice little sermon. When push comes to shove, I kinda appreciate what the religious icon of the west said 2,000 years ago, “Let him who are without sin, cast the first stone.” Well, I don’t know how that challenge got twisted around over the centuries to the point, and thus the horror of the world, that in fact not only stones have been cast but bullets and bombs , even 2 nuclear detonations –in the name of this icon of love.

    So, you have invested emotionally etc; as you stated, in this country, the home of billions of souls who have themselves and descendants going back thousands of years who did and do more than invested emotionally, but sacrificed blood, loved ones, sweat and tears for the preservation of these Chinese cultures. Perhaps you are even married to one such descendant of the Yellow river. I say good for you. But, before I go on, perhaps you might want to get a simple fact straight first about what it is being a Chinese, i.e those who are in fact proud that they are Chinese, not those who are merely ethnically so or those who are aquaintences and friends of a few Chinese people or China.
    Today, there are of course Chinese who are CCP members; there are those who aren’t, and even those Chinese who are anti-PRC/CCP. Please understand that we are as diverse in philosophy, thoughts and beliefs, even appearances as any ethnic or cultural groups. And pertaining to this blog, as you seem to have categorized yourself as an outsider, by stating ” (even to you, for if it didn’t matter, why would you Fools be attemping to move the Mountain here?).” Despite your endearing opening statement you seem to see yourself as an aloof foreigner, no?
    So, you think it does matter In the court of international public opinion? As my American friends always tell me, most the folks at home know squad about China. They don’t care.

  72. pug_ster Says:


    No, it is the perception of the Western Media that China can’t be trusted. I doubt that even if China has become ‘transparent’ they will find something that China did it its past that they can’t be trusted anyways. The so called ‘government website’ is not sanctioned by the government and the information there is not reliable. Meanwhile the Chinese government has given the IOC their id cards, family residency permits and other things puts more weight yet the western propaganda ignores the fact.

    @SK Cheung

    Actually, I was thinking more like the coach or whomever had the bright idea to make her compete in those intercity competitions should be punished, with a fine or something.

    As there are no formal inquiry to this matter, the IOC considered matter closed. Even if one of the athletes confessed that she is 14 tomorrow, I doubt their metals are stripped tomorrow.

    On the bright side, the Biden is the running mate of Obama and I think this issue will fade to the background as election day gets closer and as the olympics winds down.

  73. EugeneZ Says:


    “From my extensive experience of living and working in the West, once you show your weakness, the average westerner will find it extremely hard to restrain himself, and the whole thing will escalate.”

    Although a subjective statement of yours, I had chill through my spine when I read this – it rings a bell. I believe I have experienced this a number of times at workplace (in USA). Could you eloborate this further? I am very interested in this topic. Understanding this may be important to one’s professional career in the US.

  74. Squill Says:

    “But if some of you want to keep on investigating because you have some unhealthy fascination with certain personal information about these girls, whom you consider under-aged, then shame on you!”

    Why is it that when I here someone say “shame on you” I get the impression that this is a person who is upset about not getting their way and has merely run out of ideas for making a good argument. Nothing is left for them to do but stomp their feet.

  75. GNZ Says:

    Good point about taking a step back Chinawatcher.

    Sometimes we just want to figure it out. I am interested now and regardless of who gets to keep their medal I want to see the evidence. Maybe I’ll find out in 8 years in a TV interview but I am also impatient. It seems silly for either side to relate this to overthrowing the Party then again you took us to new lows with the reference to pedophilia. to quote EugeneZ out of context – China is much bigger than this.

    Everyone has sinned so no one can ask any questions of anyone who might have cheated? what about murdered? Surely that is a ridiculous position.

  76. Chinawatcher Says:

    @TommyBahamas * 71

    Your presumptuousness has led you far astray on many counts. Mine wasn’t a “sermon” – it was an attempt to engage with some of the keenest minds I have encountered in the blog space relating to China. (From your ungracious response, however, I can only infer that this blog also draws some less than sharp minds; but then, as the saying goes, when the forest is big, there are all kinds of birds.)

    You’re wrong on other counts as well. I’m not “married to a descendant of the Yellow river” nor am I a practitioner of the faith founded in the name of the religious icon from the West you tangentially refer to. Nor, indeed, am I from the country that fired all those bullets, bombs and nuclear weapons you cite without offering any context for such out-of-place outpourings. (I offer these clarfications only to point out that you’ve been misled by your presumptuousness; these are, in my view, non-issues unrelated to the topic we are discussing here.)

    As for your low-blow about my casting myself as an “outsider” here, again, you’re off-track. Although I am an occasional commentator and do follow the debates on Fool’s Mountain, I cannot claim to be a stakeholder here in the same way that Tang Buxi, bxbq, Charles Liu and some others are. To them must go the credit for initiating this debate, in which others, including I, occasionally join. To that extent, yes, I am a “foreigner” here – although I’m far from “aloof”. (If you really want to know how I feel about Fool’s Mountain, look up the Fool’s Mountain’s 100th day post, where my views were graciously acknowledged.)

    And, in my opinion, merely becauser you’re Chinese doesn’t make you an “insider” on Fool’s Mountain in the same that they are – unless you make meaning contributions to the debate, which (going by your latest comment) you appear incapable of making.

    I would say more in response, but I must confess to finding you far from lucid. We’re discussing the He Kexin episode, and I offered my views on how it will influence how China is perceived in the world. If you can valiantly rise above making personal and irrelevant remarks about me, and can make your arguments in a civil fashion, I am happy to hear your views

  77. FOARP Says:

    @Chinawatcher#64 – Word.

  78. perspectivehere Says:

    There is a lot of unnecessary rancor and emotionalism here. I hope people will present their arguments based on fact and reason, not bluster and accusations.

    That said, my view on the investigation is as follows:

    Fairness requires that the same standards should be applied to each athlete.

    The rules apparently state that a passport is definitive proof of age.

    The fact that He “looks” young should not be taken to mean anything, because the perception of “looks” is subjective, and as BXBQ and many others have pointed out, cultural, ethnic, genetic and dietary differences, as well as ordinary differences between individuals, make “looks” an entirely unreliable criterion.

    Many other gymnasts look young (like the Japanese team), but are not being challenged, so it is patently unfair to single out the Chinese gymnasts or He Kexin in particular.

    Based on some of the media articles and blog posts and comments I have seen, it is clear that many of the complaints about the Chinese team are based on such subjective factors as how young they looks. None of those views have any legitimacy and should be ignored by the IOC. It is irresponsible and in my mind, frankly, racially ignorant, for media journalists to persist in pointing out how young the Chinese gymnasts look as evidence of cheating.

    Recently documents have emerged that suggest He is younger than 16. Such documents do raise questions, and it is perfectly reasonable on the blogosphere for people to debate these documents. However, such documents are of unknown accuracy and it is too much for anyone to say that they offer definitive proof and trump the accuracy of a passport.

    The fact that these documents are being deleted from websites is not proof that they are accurate. It is just as likely that they are being deleted because they are inaccurate. It would be preferable for these websites to point out that a correction is being made, but this is hardly standard practice in Chinese media, and again, is not an admission that the information is either accurate or inaccurate.

    So where does this leave us?

    An investigation is now being conducted only on He. The question is why?

    The problem is that in asking for other forms of proof of age, the IOC is, in effect, asking for something other than a passport as proof of age.

    It is offensive to notions of fairness that one athlete is subjected to tougher or different standards of providing proof of age than another athlete.

    While for other athletes, presentation of a passport is sufficient, but for He, the rule seems to have been retroactively revised as follows: “a passport is ordinarily sufficient as proof of age, but if (a) the athlete subjectively looks younger than the eligible age, (b) any newspaper or website article or other piece of writing (without any proof as to the accuracy of the newspaper or website article or other piece of writing) is presented that indicates that the age shown on the passport is inaccurate, and (c) there are complaints raised in the media, the IOC shall conduct an investigation of the athlete and shall at its discretion determine the acceptability of the evidence offered as proof of age.”

    This to me is the procedural unfairness to He.

    If I were He, I would be pretty upset. I would fight this by arguing that (a) the “looks” standard is subjective, (b) there is no evidence that the website documents are more accurate than the passport and (c) complaints raised in the media is public pressure that should be resisted by the IOC.

    Or it should be applied equally and a new standard should be devised that would apply to all gymnasts equally. Retroactive application of a different set of procedural rules to a single athlete is a violation of due process.

    Incidentally, has anyone looked to see if any of the other gymnasts from other countries have their ages misrepresented on some website somewhere?

  79. PaZhuLian Says:


    Your assurance on behalf of all the readers are certainly comforting for all the parents. I guess we will just have to take your words for it.

    Care to share with us what kind of evidence will get you satisfied?

  80. PaZhuLian Says:


    Now do a search on yahoo or google with the phrases “shame on you, china”. I guess your impression shall apply to the authors of all the articles that show up in the search result with this phrase?

  81. Gan Lu Says:

    @ perspectivehere

    “Fairness requires that the same standards should be applied to each athlete.”

    谈何容易。 In practice, it’s tough to apply the same standards to athletes from different countries/systems. In China, questioning He Kexin’s age is tantamount to challenging the Chinese state. Questioning the validity of He’s passport and birth documents is nothing less than casting aspersions on the integrity of two of China’s most important government ministries. Unfortunately, in a system like China’s, one can’t simply confront the athlete and her coach. Rather, one must confront the entire system. In such circumstances, the outcome involves not just issues of fairplay, but the honor of the CCP as well. This raises the stakes dramatically. The CCP will resist, tooth and nail, any actions that threaten to discredit it.

    Such circumstances are less likely to arise in the West, where governments play a much smaller role in these kinds of things. As a result, the IOC and FIG are freer to pursue such matters because they don’t risk offending the regime of the country in question. I think that we can assume that the last thing the IOC wants to do here is offend the Chinese state, which would spin the insult as a slap in the face of all Chinese.

    Athletes from all countries cheat. However, dealing with Chinese athletes who are suspected of cheating is not quite the same thing as dealing with U.S., British, or German athletes who are suspected. Under the circumstances, applying consistent standards to all cases is next to impossible.

    Imagine what would happen if He Kexin was determined to be underage.

  82. GNZ Says:

    The IOC doesn’t want to investigate He. they would much rather everyone just ignores any irregularities of any form in the Olympics. They would probably cover it up if they could, without needing any persuasion at all.

    Their procedure is almost certainly “we will accept normal proof – but where there are doubts (such as was the case with Nth Korea, some of the eastern block countries in previous Olympics) we reserve the right to look a little deeper in order to protect the reputation of the Olympics”. He is not the first or last person to be subject to this ‘clause’ and surely in other situations that sort of logic would be par for the course for any organization with half a brain not least of all the CCP.

  83. Chinawatcher Says:

    I personally believe the IOC will conclude that there is insufficient proof to establish that He Kexin is underaged.

    There are two reasons for this. One, of course, is that IOC itself wants to save face – for itself and for the Chinese government, and “bring the matter to an end quickly”.

    But more important, the way the IOC’s “investigation” is proceeding isn’t calculated to do that. For instance, this AP report



    “The FIG asked China for documents on He Kexin, Yang Yilin, Jiang Yuyuan, Deng Linlin and Li Shanshan, and said Saturday that it had received passports, ID cards and family residence permits and would begin analyzing them… The IOC, however, sounded as if it did not expect anything to be found. “We believe the matter will be put to rest and there’s no question … on the eligibility,” Davies said. “The information we have received seems satisfactory in terms of the correct documentation — including birth certificates.”

    In other words, the FIG is not going to work like a court of criminal law or take on board evidence to the contrary (such as Stryde Hax’s revelations about the official database details of He Kexin’s age). It is merely sticking to asking the Chinese gymnastics officials for more “proof of age” – and, technically, the Chinese government, with its infinite powers for generating compliant paperwork and with so much at stake, can produce a whole range of documents to back up its case.

    That official Chinese narrative can be challenged only if the FIG will take on board evidence that goes against the grain (such as Stryde Hax’s revelations), but the FIG is clearly not going down that road.

    Which is why I believe the IOC will eventually rule that there is no evidence to establish that He Kexin was underaged.

    My bigger point, made in comment No. 64, about how the international opinion and the “western media” will perceive this, is still valid, I believe.

  84. GNZ Says:

    Do I sense doubt in your words?
    There are many ways – all I can do is assure you I am a reasonable person trying to weigh up the facts.
    Can you say the same?

  85. FOARP Says:

    @Chinawatcher – Exactly, my standards are not those of the IOC (personally, I don’t understand why 14 year olds are allowed in diving but not in gymnastics), nor do I believe that He Kexin will be judged underage, but the evidence of a cover-up – for want of a better word – stinks. I think a lot of other people out there share my concern. When newspapers make a mistake, they issue a correction – they don’t delete all record of having ever made a mistake. When the head of a sporting administration gets a girl’s age wrong in a speech in a way which would risk disqualifying her from the Olympics, he usually gives an explanation. When official documents are incorrect, there is usually some reason for the mistake, and they are not corrected in a fashion which removes all evidence of their ever having been incorrect.

  86. GNZ Says:

    In their defense there are probably a lot of people in China ducking for cover and wondering if they will be punished / scape-goated for not realizing that this might cause problems for her come Olympics time. They might need to do that whether they reported the truth or a lie.

  87. FOARP Says:

    @GNZ – True

  88. tesa Says:

    I am baffled that people believe that other than recently issued documents there is no other way to provide for proof of age. Every baby is born from a mother and the mother has doctor and hospital records. All kids have some contemporary documents that prove their age. There are dated pictures babies with their parents. Their school attendance records, friends an teachers can be interviewed. Their early school work can provide a proof. Authentic immunization papers would show their age. Their pediatrician and be interviews and the pediatrician have their own records. I don’t believe that a country would be willing to destroy documents and lie to a gold medal for a kid.

  89. FOARP Says:

    It is also interesting that this scandal has not been reported in the Chinese media, and that internet commentary on it is now being censored.

  90. werew Says:

    @Tim #25
    Don’t know if you are going to read this. I meant it was falsified for some other contests in lower level. Perhaps some contests that require the contestant to be young.

  91. werew Says:

    You can still find hundreds of blog posts or forum threads on this in Chinese internet sphere, perhaps some are deleted, but I haven’t seen such a thing yet. And this scandal has been reported in Chinese media. It was just not given as much attention as western media. Different country, different media interests. You can’t say that every top news in western media should be top news in Chinese media, or else it’s censorship.

  92. TommyBahamas Says:

    @Chinawatcher #76.

    Well said. Very well said indeed. How right you are about how comment*71 of mine shows my lack of lucidity, and as you also correctly stated “led you far astray on many counts” due to my incorrigible presumptuousness.
    Fact is, I started my response to your comment#64 with the same praise as this, but then I thought I’d be an ass and play the role of a knucklehead instead and see what would happen, what quantity of tirades I’d receive in return?
    To be honest it was only by coincidence that I’d “picked on you” as many others have picked on me, and me on others and so on, simply out of some personal bitternes or entanglement in the woven web of cultural snares and twisted preconceived notions resulting in endless insufferable out-of-line rants, out of context outpourings and whatnot which do in fact saturate many similar China related blogs as this one. I am now glad I’d accidentally picked on one who is more than capable in articulating in retort without missing a beat in pointing out all the flaws in my above designed rant.
    In addition, I must join you in praise and agreement that many that visit FoolsMountain are indeed some of the keenest minds I have encountered in the blog space relating to China.” Finally, if my silly little test above is deemed to be of bad taste, I do sincerely apologize.

  93. Charles Liu Says:

    Chinawater @64, I’m American, ain’t from Mainland China, have never been citizen of the PRC a day in my life.

  94. Chinawatcher Says:

    @ TommyBahamas – No. 92: Apology accepted with grace 🙂

    @ Charles Liu – No. 93. I did not suggest (in comment No. 64) that you were from/in/a citizen of the PRC. (For me, those are irrelevant tags.) What I did say was that you and others like bxbq (and even I) are emotionally “invested” in China – to the extent that we speak up about and in defence of China. I’m sure you will concede that that’s not an erroneous characterisation.

  95. yo Says:

    My 2 cents,
    Unless you have hard proof to suggests she is underage, there is nothing anyone can do. This doesn’t change the fact she is still a talented Gymnast/Olympic medalist, nor does it look good when it looks like the American Female Gymnastic team is “sueing” for medals.

  96. James Sweet Says:

    Chinawatcher, I agree wholeheartedly with your comments and your perspective.

    In the end transparency will win the day, and I believe that China can redeem itself by establishing a pattern of transparency over time, rather than a continuing pattern of obfuscation and cover-up. By the way, please don’t think that I believe that only China’s government needs to improve their record, the US government is in grave danger of becoming more like China and less like the shining beacon it deserves to be. Our current President’s record is most shameful in this regard, and people should have no problems having this pointed out. That fact does not diminish China’s responsibility in this matter, however.

    As an outcome, I don’t think any action will be taken at this time–the only thing I would like to see is the IOC to issue a statement that they will remain open to new evidence at any point in time and will not impose any ‘statute of limitations’ on when new evidence may emerge.

  97. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Yo #95,
    I agree with you. I happened to have watched that team competition. I saw American gymnasts falling off the balancing beam even before they started tumbling, and falling on the ground on their backs like clumsy pandas in floor exercising. There is no question which team is the champion. Of course, there is also no question that Liukin and Johnson are the best individual female gymnasts in the 2008 Olympics.

  98. MoneyBall Says:

    “In the end transparency will win the day”.

    Are you guys for real? Is this foolsmountain or saintsmountain? Transparency NEVER wins. If one day you become a big boss you will know. There is not a single successful nation or corporation in human history is entirely founded on transparency or morality. Nations/Coporations are organizations for self-interests preservation, and rightfully so. They may choose to be transparent/moral at the time for credibility considerations, but not for the sake of transparency and morality. Cover-up is how Goverment/Board survives, and it serves to a point whether you like it or not, keep bitching all you want(and you should as people) but that won’t change till the end of human civilization. You can think that as God’s will.

    In this particular case Chinese goverment will not do anything, and they shouldnt, not for silly things like this. A government should only react based on the Substance of things, not on Hype of things. Medias in the West are sproiled too much they think they are so powerful that they can swing a state …… Welcome to China LOL, I feel for these correspondents.

    That’s my 2ct now you guys can go back disccussing if she’s started her periods.

  99. Squill Says:

    @PaZhuLian, buddy

    Don’t need to do a search to know what reaction that phrase has on me. I don’t like “shame on you, China any more than I like “shame on you, USA” or “shame on you, Iceland”. My point was that it is not something that helps the other party see your point of view. Its a phrase that I think has the opposite effect for which it was intended. You are certainly not going to make anyone feel shame by saying this. Better to patiently try to illustrate to them the error of their thinking. When you say “shame on you” you are forcing them up against a wall where their only response can be something like “Well, screw you too!” And that is not a good environment in which to exchange ideas and have a good, healthy, friendly argument.

  100. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Chinawatcher #83:
    again, completely agree, especially with your last statement.

  101. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To MoneyBall:
    you’re right. Companies and countries would prefer completely opaqueness if given the choice, I’d suspect. I would think that having media and whistleblowers expose warts and ugly underbellies is decidedly unpleasant for the folks in suits. However, from the people’s perspective, transparency is what is required. And if power is to be in the hands of the people, then transparency is what will be insisted upon. So when Chinawatcher opines for transparency to win the day, I think the associated hope is for the power to belong to the people. Idealistic, sure, but I don’t see anything wrong with that.

  102. Squill Says:


    Ever play a competitive sport? Ever call an infraction on yourself that no one else noticed? Might want to give it a try and see how it makes you feel. Its a good feeling. Its between more than you and your competitors or the officials. It’s between you and life. For me it really is about “How you play” more that whether or not you win. I won’t tolerate cheating from anyone, most of all from myself.

  103. Wu Di Says:

    @bxbq: You are defending the Chinese authorities? They should “get themselves a backbone” and “not show weakness” by providing the documentation requested, in an attempt to create procedural justice? Are you serious???

    This is not about perceptions. This is about the deliberate breaking of Olympics rules. And procedural justice should be completely independent of silly thoughts about subjective perceptions, backbones, or weaknesses. Advocating a refusal to cooperate is uncalled for, imho.

    Plus, for me, exposing weaknesses is a sign of strength. But I guess you disagree with that?

  104. MoneyBall Says:


    Ever run any organization? if you think running a nation is just like running somebody’s personal life we should have have a bunch of pastors&reverends as the cabinet.

  105. Wu Di Says:

    @ Chinawatcher #83 and S.K.Cheung #100:

    You may be right but I think that the real significance lies in what happens to global public opinion — even if a country, a sports system, and athletes’ parents all collaborate to push a specific story. Official birthday lists of recent years tell a different story… so where does the truth lie?

    And the IOC knows that…

  106. MoneyBall Says:

    “exposing weaknesses is a sign of strength”

    only when you have the total control of the fallout. otherwise you will be gambling.
    ccp is extremely insecure, and they dont like to gamble.

  107. Wu Di Says:

    @MoneyBall #106:

    Agree. But I like gambling. Life would be boring if everything was under control.

    And of course I wasn’t talking about the ccp… I’m well aware the ‘control’ thinking is still dominating politics (not only in China), but I would have expected more from bxbq.

  108. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Wu Di:
    the IOC has spoken, so case closed. As to where the “truth” lies, who knows? But to me, her age was not the point; the exposed flaws in the process, and official Chinese responses, were the more germaine issues.

    I think, when the Chinese government’s word is accepted on its face, is when China can feel they have truly arrived on the international stage.

  109. Wu Di Says:

    @ S.K.C: Case closed, let’s move on to accept new flawed processes and face-saving official actions. There’s lots of such ‘representations of reality’ (a.k.a. lies) hovering around on the international stage. China will fit in just beautifully.

    Just a pity that by and large only a minority (and definitely not the less privileged parts of the world) is benefiting from the material manifestations of the dominant narratives…

    P.S.: To me, her age is not the point either.

  110. GNZ Says:

    What is interesting to me is how the truth gets to be the “truth” in as far as it is the thing that doesn’t matter.
    And that one might use an argument that seems rather similar to “cheating works – so if we cheated you you should just accept it”.

  111. TT Says:

    GNZ Says:

    “What is interesting to me is how the truth gets to be the “truth” in as far as it is the thing that doesn’t matter. And that one might use an argument that seems rather similar to “cheating works – so if we cheated you you should just accept it.”

    You either respect the rule, or you dont. You cant say China should repect IOC’s controversial age rule but when IOC made the ambiguous ruling and you dont respect, that’s have you cake and eat it too.

  112. S.K. Cheung Says:

    don’t get me wrong, of course the truth matters. But when determination of “truth” comes down to a Olympic version of he said/she said, and in the absence of an objective test, I think arguing whose “truth” is more truthful becomes a perpetual exercise. I think that’s when it’s time to call it a day, and find alternate fish to fry.

  113. Wu Di Says:

    @GNZ: Agreed.
    @TT: What if the rules are wrong?
    @SKC: What if calling it a day perpetuates the status quo?

    There’s never going to be an “objective” test. All we can do is *not* move on until the status quo at least adequately reflects our discontent with being cheated continuously (in which case it may actually even transform into something new…)

  114. Alex Says:

    The real story is how “fake” the 2008 Olympics where, fake fans even. It is sad to think of all the people that live under Communist China’s authoritarian regime, never will taste freedom in there lives.

    Chinese is a slave nation, people given this fake freedom and then enslaved to build cheap junk for us Americans to buy in Wal-Mart.

    China is like America’s 53 state, our capitalists have paid off the authoritarian regime in order to provide a new class of slaves for America’s capitalist enginee.

    Even though it raises our standard of living in America, I would prefer not to have Chinese slaves working for me and hope the Chinese people obtain true freedom one day.

  115. FOARP Says:

    @Alex – Labour in Chinese factories (at least the ones I have worked in) is not slaved, Chinese people do not ask for favours, but for a fair shake. They work for less, but they earn their money, and are happy to make a living wage plus a bit extra that they can save toward something else, in this they are just like people everywhere else. You will not help them by refusing to buy what they make. Poverty is a great oppressor, and by buying Chinese goods you help to alleviate that poverty.

  116. perspectivehere Says:

    As an American, I think the whole episode – the criticisms (some? many? most?) Americans have directed towards China and its gymnastic team – are symptomatic of a deeply embedded cultural characteristic that pervades American culture. When things don’t turn out the way we want, when we can’t get a prize we think we deserve, we put yourself in the role of victim and scream: “We wuz robbed!”

    Our legal institutions have a lot to do with this. Americans are both blessed and cursed with a “rights-based, adversarial system of justice”. There are numerous avenues for pursuing redress, for appealing “all the way to the Supreme Court”, as long as you have money and time and a forum for complaining, which the profit-minded media is all-to-happy to provide.

    On the positive side, this means that car makers that sell lemons, surgeons making operating room errors, building contractors that don’t deliver what they promised, and drug companies that sell drugs that injure instead of heal – are policed by numerous private plaitiffs, rather than directly by the government enforcement agencies. There is economic efficiency and a less-overbearing governmental authority as a benefit.

    On the negative side, this means that people complain about everything, whether justified or not. The contingency-fee based payment system encourages people to sue because there is a profit motive for lawyers to undertake the claim. As a result, dubious and frivolous claims are made all the time – so much so that reducing such claims is a regular part of the Republican political platform. (I don’t support this platform – I think the problem is exaggerated by the Republicans for emotional political effect to fuel even more resentment and sense of victimization among their constituents – but there is enough of a grain of truth there to make it stick.)

    Culturally, this means that Americans are often accused of having become “a nation of whiners” as McCain’s advisor Phil Gramm (whose politics I do not agree with, but again there is some truth to his statement).

    A new book, “A Culture of Crybabies: The 21st Century World of Wimps, Whiners and Victims” (http://crybabies.org/) talks about this shameful characteristic of Americans. The author points out that the culture of complaining is fanned by the media, which profits from heightening disputes which creates interest among its audience.

    Another factor we can see here is, unfortunately, race. (I can already hear people complaining that I’m “playing the race card” by bringing this up).

    As an example, I point to the film Finding Forrester, starring Sean Connery, about his title character’s relationship with Jamal Wallace (Rob Brown), an African American high school basketball player who is awarded a scholarship to a prestigious private school. Drama occurs when Jamal’s English teacher, Mr Crawford (played by veteran F. Murray Abraham), accuses Jamal of cheating for submission of a paper which Crawford thinks is “too good” for Jamal to have written. (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRnRy_rLQPw for a trailer).

    In the behavior and words of Mr Crawford, we see themes of racial prejudice (hidden behind coded phrases like “He’s a basketball player!” to prove that Jamal could not have written the paper); aggressive attempts to undermine Jamal hidden behind patronizing paternalistic language of “doing what is right for Jamal”, and the seething vindictiveness of the mediocre Crawford towards some blessed with the gift of talent. W.E.B. Dubois wrote about the Talented Tenth, but a jealous white society has all-too-often been able to lock them down with all kinds of barriers and glass-ceilings. This is long-standing feature of American society from its founding in Jamestown 1607, and the experience of many “out-groups” in America, particularly non-whites, bears this out.

    What we have seen in this whole ugly episode is that whereas the players – Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson – have behaved with exemplary sportsmanship (sportswomanship?) and honor in their statements about the Chinese athletes, there are so many around them, the mediocre hangers-on, who are the ones making the most noise and complaints.

    In all honesty, I have no idea whether He Kexin is underage or not. But she and the rest of the Chinese team have been accused of cheating. From the articles and comments posted by many Americans, it appears the accusers have already made up their minds. This is the very definition of prejudice (a “pre-judgment”).

    A great scene from the movie is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hk7UZV9F7FQ&feature=related

    Substitute the uppity Chinese for Jamal and you begin to perceive the cultural underpinnings of the hostile, indignant and prejudicial accusations emanating from the Americans swirling around the gymnasts here.

    Disclaimer: This criticism is not directed at all Americans or even white Americans in particular, but to those Americans who believe that a legitimate way to win is by complaining and dragging down the achievements of others.

    I may be revealing my political stripes here, but consider the 2000 disputed election in Florida, and you know how big a problem we Americans have. Let’s spare the world of our affliction by using some honorable self-restraint. Otherwise, we might find the same bad behavior blowing back at us someday (like torture) and we aren’t going to like it.

    For the Chinese in this blog, note that as China acquires an American-style rights-based adversarial legal system (which it is slowly building), you should expect to find the same kind of avenues for redress against shameful unfair behavior – hire a lawyer and sue the bastard. However, this is a direct affront to traditionalist Confucianist stoicism embodied in the ideal of 忍。 What would you rather have? This topic may be a different blog thread to consider;-)!

  117. S.K. Cheung Says:

    well said. We definitely live in a generation where the reflex is to look without for the cause of one’s problems, rather than looking within. We like to exercise our rights, but are loathe to fulfill our responsibilities.

  118. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Wu Di:
    then I would look for alternate fish, the frying of which might have a better chance of changing said status quo.

  119. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Alex:
    one of the few times I’ve taken BOCOG’s side, I think. Empty seats is a problem for many Olympics past, and probably future, and it’s not unique to Beijing. Rather than fake fans, I’d take them as “seat fillers”. Not so different than what they use during big award telecasts like the Oscars to give the impression of a full house. I’m sure those folks were paid, just like people pay others to stand in line before Boxing Day door crashers, or before the iPhone came out. If those “seat fillers” did so willingly, I don’t think it’s a problem.

  120. Daniel Says:

    Hi Perspective,

    I know what you mean…unfortunantly there are more unpleasent facets regarding American culture(s) and society in general which many tend to overlooked or not bother to face. I also think it’s been around for some time and taught. I remember when I was around 7 when my friends and I were in a school play. I think all we did was smile, hardly laughing, to ourselves for something very subtle, yet we got complained by the audience and recieved some type of nonsense punishment. *(which if I remember correctly, was just staying in the classroom for a longer period of time).
    However, like you said, it’s a whole other topic in general and most likely not appropriate for this blog/forum.

    On one hand, I think it would be interesting to see how the future plays out.

  121. Joyce Hor-Chung Lau, Hong Kong Says:

    The gymnastics team has not been officially accused of cheating any more than Michael Phelps has been accused of doping. They’ve been asked for more proof. He was drug-tested 7 times in 12 days in Beijing, including once on one day. Did the U.S. Team create a big anti-American conspiracy? No. They submitted him to tests, over and over. They did not make a big deal about it — and therefore the media didn’t either. He cleared the tests — no loss of face, no scandal.

    China has to learn to deal with these “incidents” with quiet grace and calm. Anger, blame, defensiveness, a refusal to answer journalists’ questions, and rude retorts towards “foreigners” will only make China look worse — and none of us want that.

    When the IOC asks you for tests or documents, you comply. That’s following the rules. It’s not showing “weakness” in the eyes of evil Westerners. What is this? The Opium Wars? Has our mentality not progressed since then? It certainly has nothing to do with Saddam Hussein or North Korea — which, I might add, are not exactly top models for good international relations.

    The host country — which solemnly swore to honesty in the Opening Ceremony — should be a model of compliance, not the nation that reacts badly. The IOC do everything from drug tests on European dressage horses to “gender tests” to see if men are competing as women (as an Indian did a few years back!) They’ve kicked out athletes from Spain to North Korea for doping. They’ve taken a medal away from a wrestler for rude behaviour. It’s the IOC’s job to police the Games. China is not being treated better or worse than anyone else.

    Back this original post, which concentrates on body shape. The difference in physical development is something the Chinese coaches have also brought up, I believe, in an attempt to change the focus from the real problem: Clashing documents and reports in the official Mainland media showing these girls to be both 14 and 16, and what seems to be a changing of “damanging” documents online. The investigation is being based on documents, not bodies.

    This scandal was initially brought to light not by the U.S. Team, but by independent journalists working for The Associated Press, who were checking out lists from provincial gymnastics meets in July — before anyone knew which medals would be won. While some Americans have been quite obnoxious about it, that does not do away with doubts about Chinese documentation.

    I don;t think this will ever be resolved. China will not submit documents that go against their case. The IOC will not make much effort to do independent ground work. It will be a cat-and-mouse game, like what happens in doping. Regardless of the end, the way that the Chinese coaches, officials (and, to a certain extent, people) have reacted have helped blow this relatively small issue up into a big “us vs. them” PR mess.

  122. Joel Says:

    Someone with better Chinese than me needs to translate this and make it a Fool’s Mountain post:
    (h/t http://globalvoicesonline.org/2008/08/25/china-brain-damaged-netizen-syndrome/)

  123. pug_ster Says:

    Joyce, @121


    Actually, the Chinese gynmasts officals have submitted additional documents including id cards, family residency papers, birth certificates after IOC have asked them to, as only the IOC can strip those gymnasts metals, not the Western Media. The Western Media are the only ones with the big blowhorns making speculations, suggestions, rumors, jokes, and pouring fuel into this hooplah. As for the IOC, it was satisified with the additional documentation it has received and considered the matter closed. However, I can’t say the same for the ‘Crybaby’ Western Media.

  124. admin Says:

    @Joel #122

    That’s a good one 🙂

    I know a lot of English readers want to see more translated content. However, translation is a hard job. So I’d like to ask a general question here. The English level of some Chinese may be quite good but still not up to the par of native speakers. I am wondering if anybody would be interested in a “team translation” project. I mean, let Chinese translators do a draft and then send it off to native speakers for correction/polish. Anybody interested?

  125. steve rose Says:

    Not trying to be conclusive. Just want to point out the irony.

    The document that the US hacker obtained to be considered as the indisputable evidence to prove the young girl’s underage, is also produced and distributed by chinese government.

    If the documents from chinese government are all lies, we should at least use one standard. If you want to trust some of them, you may as well trust some others.

  126. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Joyce #121:
    completely agree with you. Asking uncomfortable questions of China does not make the Western media crybabies; rather, China could learn to be more upfront rather than resorting to the common “why are you picking on me…” defensive refrain. Sober drivers should have no problem taking a breathalyser; it’s the drunk ones who would squawk and complain.

  127. DaMai Says:

    Admin, I do some Chinese to English translation for my company when we do Chinese media monitoring. Barring job-related time constraints, when possible, I’d be happy to help with some translation (depending on the topic/difficulty) and/or polishing.

  128. admin Says:

    @ DaMai,

    That’s great. Thank you very much! Could you please email me at webmaster@foolsmountain.com so we can discuss details offline?

  129. perspectivehere Says:

    @Joyce Hor-Chung Lau, Hong Kong

    The Chinese gymnastics team has already been accused of cheating all over the media, and many people have already come to the conclusion that they have cheated.

    As an example, take a look at this post on Huffingtonpost and the comments that it engendered from (I suspect) mostly Americans.


    The blogger Flumenbaum plays fast-and-loose with the facts, claiming that the “newly discovered documents and records prove” the girls are not 16.

    Of course, the documents that have come to light do not “prove” anything. It only shows that there is a discrepancy between what is reported in the documents and He Kexin’s passport.

    Yet judging from that blogger (and the 1,424 comments to date that have appeared under his post), the vast majority of commenters have already come to the conclusion that the Chinese are “guilty until proven innocent”. And frankly, many say that “the Chinese government can’t be trusted” so no matter what evidence is offered, they will not believe it.

    This is prejudice. This has nothing to do with what China’s official response is.

    This paragraph is telling: “When the world was officially introduced to He Kexin this week, even those unwise to the ways of competitive gymnastics could tell that with He, something was not right. At 4-foot 8-inches tall and weighing 72 pounds, the Beijing native appears significantly younger than most of her Chinese teammates much less her American and European counterparts.”

    Joyce, how ignorant and ethnocentric a view can Flumenbaum have? Assuming you live in Hong Kong, how many local 16 year old girls do you know that are 4’8″ and weigh 72 pounds? Hong Kong may not be the best comparison either, but if you’ve visited China, you will know that He Kexin’s stats are not that unusual.

    To me, the girls look young, but my reaction would not be “something is not right”, it would fall within the range of my experience having travelled and lived in Asia.

    Americans form a conclusion in their mind based on their limited experience and what the media tells them (principally through movies and television, probably less so through news media). Most Americans have never gone overseas and have very ignorant views of the world. (see http://www.gyford.com/phil/writing/2003/01/31/how_many_america.php on U.S. passport ownership) Flumenbaum who has lived in Shanghai for 2 years according to his bio should know that Chinese are on average smaller than Americans, but he chooses not to say so, misleading his audience.

    Huffingtonpost is a very popular and influential political blog site in the U.S., mostly left-leaning, and has averaged 70-80 million page views a month. See http://www.observer.com/2008/arianna-climbs-top-tier-man-drudge?observer_most_read_tabs_tab=1

    Flumenbaum is an Associate Editor at Huffingtonpost, and his other posts have evinced an notably anti-China bias.

    My problem is less with China government’s responses (which could do with more sophistication, but what do you expect, it’s still a developing country with bigger things to worry about than the image-only focus of U.S. politicians) than I have with the relentless attack and ridicule by American media with trivialities and perpetrating the “China-cheats” meme which fuels resentment and makes it easier for people to excuse acting badly towards China and Chinese.

    The U.S. has a long history of using popular resentment against racial minorities and other countries to justify extraordinary actions against them, including war and arbitrary arrest. Rallying cries like “Remember the Alamo” (http://hnn.us/articles/4750.html), “Remember the Maine” (http://www.smplanet.com/imperialism/remember.html), “Remember Pearl Harbor” and “Remember 911” have been used to justify the cruelest treatment of Mexicans, Cubans, Japanese, Muslims and Middle Easterners.

    The internment of Japanese Americans, one of the blackest events in American history, happened without much opposition. There were suspicions of disloyalty against the Japanese Americans, but no cases were ever proven, and yet an entire group was sentenced to detention.

    This is a blog about China, but one should not overlook the role that the U.S. media plays in shaping political perceptions and around the world, and incidents like this, repeated and amplified in the U.S. media, blows things out of proportion and fuels resentment over “Chinese cheating” against America’s team. This can have very damaging effects on current and future China-U.S. relations, and also impact the way Asians are treated by the majority in the U.S.

    It’s irresponsible journalism, satisfying a hunger for sensationalism and controversy, but it fulfills a certain demand in its audience for content which reinforces Americans’ preconceptions and needs.

    It is a sad reality that Americans view Asians/Chinese in prejudiced / stereotypical ways, and these prejudicial views influence the media reporting of things like the gymnast age controversy, which in turn reinforces and amplifies those views to an ever-wider audience, resulting in the persistance of these stereotypes.

    The thrust of your post is to blame the controversy on the way China’s government has handled the media.

    I think the bigger issue, on balance, is not how the target of the stereotype behaves (“Asians wouldn’t be so badly portrayed in the American media if they only behaved better”), it is how to challenge those views in the popular media (“the media portrayals are wrong, let’s expose and challenge their faulty underpinnings and change them”).

    China over time will become more sophisticated with its PR and image building. Like a successful Fortune 500 company, it will increasingly find it appropriate to invest in building its brand, and will pay professionals to do it for them. In the meantime, China does it on the cheap, but I see no need to bash them for being unsophisticated because they will learn.

    Here are a few resources on Asian stereotyping for your consideration:

    http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/01/20/11-asian-girls/?cp=all (a satirical look at a particular aspect of stereotyping)

  130. perspectivehere Says:


    Here is another blog post on a major news media website that focuses on the appearances of the girls and draws conclusions

    http://openmike.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2008/08/22/1283370.aspx (“IN GYMNASTICS, IT’S PHYSICAL AGE THAT REALLY MATTERS”)

    “I don’t know the ages of He Kexin, Jiang Yuyuan and Yang Yilin. They may not even know at this point. But I do know that calendar age isn’t the real issue here. Physical age is. Forget 14 or 16. Physically, these girls couldn’t even pass for 12. They have no hips and no breasts. From all outward appearances, they haven’t even hit puberty….”

    This is ethnocentricism.

  131. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To PerspectiveHere:
    I respectfully disagree with #129. Certainly, many Americans are ignorant of anything beyond US borders, and I suspect many are ignorant of stuff even within her borders. One only need watch Jay-Walking segments on the Tonight Show to get a sense of the depth of ignorance (one of my favourites is when Jay asked people which countries in the world start with the letter “U”; I recall someone said Yugoslavia!!! When Jay asked her what country she lived in, she said “America”). Sigh…these are the people who put man on the moon in 1969.

    “many say that “the Chinese government can’t be trusted” so no matter what evidence is offered, they will not believe it. This is prejudice. This has nothing to do with what China’s official response is.” – I think the issue is that trust (much like respect) has to be earned, and based on past behaviour, in the view of many Americans (and folks of many other nationalities), such trust has not been earned. As I’ve said elsewhere, if China wishes to be portrayed in a more favourable light, and to increasingly enjoy the benefit of the doubt, the key is how she conducts herself moving forward.

    It is certainly true that America’s history is a checkered one, particularly wrt its dealings with minorities. However, I don’t think Americans have tried to cover up, whitewash, or minimize that history. I don’t think China can claim such an open-book approach to its past (of course, T square is the first thing that comes to mind).

    The US media is influential. But OMG, this Flumenbaum person is a blogger; is he even a journalist? And if 1424 Americans share his POV on this subject, that is disappointing, but out of 300 million, is that a huge deal?

    “It is a sad reality that Americans view Asians/Chinese in prejudiced / stereotypical ways” – I’m sure that’s true of some Americans; I’m also fairly confident it is not true of all, or even most, Americans. And again, I think a distinction should be made between: (1) Americans’ perception of China’s government, versus (2) their perception of Chinese-Americans, versus (3) their perception of PRC Chinese. IMO, (1) is unchanged, (2) is unchanged, and (3) has improved as a result of the Games.

    IMO, the western media portrayal of the Chinese government is mostly justified. If you want to “expose and challenge their faulty underpinnings and change them”, I think the changes you seek begin with China herself.

  132. mo Says:

    My grandfather was born in a rural and backward part of Asia and I think the Chinese government lied. (So no, I’m not prejudiced against Asians). What leads me to believe this is that all electronic evidence contradicting the passport information was removed within a few days of that information being published outside China. Furthermore, if a dozen pieces of evidence were offered to show the Chinese government lied, it responded by a blanket denial and submitting passports that it issued. If the government had to defend itself in any reasonably functional legal system, it would be toast.

    And what is this idea of China as a “developing” country that will learn “sophistication” over time? PLEASE! China is the wealthiest country in the world with the largest store of foreign reserves. Okay, so they aren’t spending the money the same way some Western countries do, they are hoarding it probably to spend it later on winning the resource wars, acquiring technology and building up their military to bring misery to Taiwan and lord knows where else, buy out all the oil in the Middle East, and all the wheat from the US, but that doesn’t make them poor! The government right now can afford anything on earth to increase their “sophistication” but they won’t. Why not? Because the dictators who run that country got rich by enslaving and suppressing their populace, why on earth would they want to cut into their income stream by being anything under than absolute tyrants?

  133. perspectivehere Says:


    You wrote “And what is this idea of China as a “developing” country that will learn “sophistication” over time? PLEASE! China is the wealthiest country in the world with the largest store of foreign reserves.”

    You are stating a mistaken belief that the size of a country’s foreign exchange reserves is an indicator of its wealth compared to other nations. See http://www.banque-france.fr/gb/publications/telechar/bulletin/161edito.pdf for a discussion of this topic.

    Per capita income is a more relevant and valid measure of national wealth than foreign exchange reserves. GDP per capita shows how much China’s national income is relative to its population. In 2007, China ranked only 109th in the world on GDP per capital (nominal basis) according to the CIA World Factbook. This amounted to US$2,459 per person. This puts China behind such other developing countries as Swaziland (108th), Guatamala (106th), El Salvador (103rd), Albania (102nd), Cuba (88th), Angola (79th), Costa Rica (69th), Brazil (65th) and Botswana (64th).

    In contrast, the United States ranked 12th in GDP per capital in the world, with US$45,959 per person. So on average, Americans enjoy 18 times the national income of Chinese. There is no comparison. China is a developing country.

    To give you a sense of how meaningless is foreign exchange reserves as a measure of national wealth, assuming China’s approximately US$1.5 trillion in foreign exchange reserves were distributed to each of China’s 1.3 billion persons, this would only come to US$1,153 per person – less than six-months’ national income per capita.

    Despite its lifting of more than 300million people to “middle-class” economic standards in the last 30 years, China still has many more poor people than middle-class, and the majority of its citizens would still count as rural poor or migrant labor. So you are severely mistaken when you refer to China as a “wealthy” country.

    It would be like saying a large extended family with 13 members: 8 grandparents, 4 parents and a single grandchild, with a total annual income of $31,967 ($2,459 per person) and total U.S. currency savings of $14,989 ($1,153 per person) is “wealthy” compared to a family of 3 with total annual income of US$137,877 ($45,959 per person).

    Of course, it is undeniable that China as a whole has built up a great deal of national wealth through its strong growth and export economy through the last 30 years – look at its coastal cities and one sees the sign of this wealth everywhere.

    However, China has many more mouths to feed with less resources than the U.S. In addition, China’s political, governmental infrastructure, legal system, financial system, educational, health and pension systems are still immature and still in need of much more development before it reaches the sophistication of that of a developed country. This is what “developing country” means.

  134. perspectivehere Says:


    In #133 I wrote:

    “It would be like saying a large extended family with 13 members: 8 grandparents, 4 parents and a single grandchild, with a total annual income of $31,967 ($2,459 per person) and total U.S. currency savings of $14,989 ($1,153 per person) is “wealthy” compared to a family of 3 with total annual income of US$137,877 ($45,959 per person).”

    I thought of an example that is a bit closer to China’s age and residence demographics: consider an extended family of 13 persons consisting of 2 sisters who married 2 brothers, one couple living in the village together with one set of grandparents, while the other couple lives in the city with another set of grandparents. Each couple has three children. This age structure is a tad closer to China’s demographics, where 46% are 29 or younger, 26% are aged 30-44, and 30% are aged 45 or over. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_the_People's_Republic_of_China.

    The income figures remain the same for this Chinese family. My GDP per capita figures come from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nominal)_per_capita.

    It would be ridiculous to call this extended family “rich” merely because their combined annual income of almost $32K and foreign currency savings of almost $15K sounds like a respectable middle-class sum of money if you were talking about a single person or even a married couple with a child.

    However, if you’re talking about a extended family of 13 people, this amount of money does not go that far.

    Of course, if this extended family combines their savings and purchasing power, they may be able to leverage their wealth in ways that dividing up the wealth does not. For example, if they pool their savings and income to pay for the downpayment and mortgage on that apartment in the city, they are on their way towards riding China’s economic boom and increase in housing prices (although this is a riskier game in the short term today).

    And what will they do with the foreign currency savings? MO mentions “resource wars”, “military”, “buying up oil in the middle east”, “buying up all the wheat in the U.S”.

    These are alarmist and fear-mongering examples. What about paying for the college children’s education overseas and saving up a trip for an tourist trip to Southeast Asia or even the U.S.? U.S. exports to China are growing at a rapid rate (see http://www.usatoday.com/money/world/2006-04-19-china-exports-usat_x.htm and http://www.uschina.org/public/documents/2006/06/us-state-exports-china.pdf). I don’t think Boeing or Caterpillar (http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/industry/4249332.html ) takes Yuan payments yet, so they do need to hold on to some of those dollars.

    I don’t get the whole worry over “resource wars” – since China is a major manufacturing center for the world, and for its own domestic market, it of course needs the resources to operate its manufacturing and export economy – much of it owned and operated in various forms by U.S., European, and other Asian corporations. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2006/09/18/8386187/index.htm. How does GM or Apple run its plants in China without raw materials and power generated by imported energy resources?

    Please try to put things in the right perspective instead of one-sided misleading and alarmist comparisons. It’s like looking at a McDonalds and saying that everyone who walks in pays it money, but McDonalds hardly pays any money to the customers except small change! This observation would be literally true but grossly misleading. A lot of the “China competitive threat” rhetoric sounds as silly as this example because it overlooks what the U.S. gains from the trade.

  135. CC Says:


  136. iKirEZL Says:

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  1. Falsifying Documentation and Its Impact on International Public Opinions: “Underage Chinese Gymnasts” and “Bogus Americans”. | Fool's Mountain: Blogging for China

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