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Nils van der Poel gives Olympic gold medal to daughter of man held in China

Medal Ceremony - Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Day 8

BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 12: Gold medallist Nils van der Poel of Team Sweden pose with their medal during the Speed Skating Men’s 10000m medal ceremony on Day 8 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Beijing Medal Plaza on February 12, 2022 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

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Swedish speed skater Nils van der Poel gave one of his two Olympic gold medals to the daughter of a Swedish citizen who was detained in China, calling for the man to be freed.

“There are matters in this world of far greater importance than sports,” van der Poel, who since returning from Beijing has criticized China having the Games, posted on social media. “I hope this can be a glimpse of hope for solidarity in this dark hour.”

Van der Poel, who won the 5000m and 10,000m, gave his 10,000m gold medal to Angela Gui, whose father, Gui Minhai, is a bookseller who was imprisoned in China two years ago.

“I wish for the human rights issues in China to improve and for Gui Minhai to be set free,” van der Poel said after the Thursday ceremony in Great Britain, according to Amnesty International. “It’s a lot to ask, but it is the only reasonable thing to ask.”

Van der Poel said he abandoned an idea to refuse to appear on the Olympic medal stand in protest and waited until after the Games to speak out because he was worried about his safety in Beijing and did not want to be a distraction for other athletes, according to The New York Times.

Gui Minhai is a naturalized Swede who co-owned a Hong Kong store that sold gossipy books about Chinese leaders, according to The Associated Press.

Gui went missing in 2015 from his seaside home in Thailand and turned up months later in China. He was convicted in 2020 of “illegally providing intelligence overseas” and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Chinese authorities said he had admitted his crime.

Human rights groups have repeatedly accused China of extracting forced confessions from individuals it perceives to be opponents of the Communist Party’s rule.

Van der Poel said that Friday marked the second anniversary of the announcement of Gui Minhai’s prison sentence.

“I accepted his medal on my father’s behalf,” was posted on Angela Gui’s social media. “I think he’d feel beyond honoured if he knew.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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