Touchy Chinese diplomats have accused Western media of posting an ‘ugly’ photo of one of its gold-winning weightlifters to make China look bad.
Hou Zhihui won the first weightlifting gold of the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday, the first of three gold medals won by her country.
China’s Embassy in Sri Lanka lashed out at media agency Reuters for posting a photo in its coverage of the win in a fiery outpour on Twitter.
The embassy bizarrely called the choice of photo ‘shameless’ and accused Reuters of being biased and putting ideology above sport.
In the photo at the centre of the controversy, 24-year-old weightlifter Hou Zhihui is simply captured straining as she picks up a 49kg barbell
The Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka has slammed media agency Reuters for posting a ‘shameless’ photo in their coverage of the win in a fiery outpour on Twitter
The diplomats were quickly backed by state-run Chinese media organisation Global Times, who slammed the media agency for a lack of respect for Olympic spirit.
In the photo at the centre of the controversy, the 24-year-old weightlifter is simply captured straining as she picks up a 49kg barbell.
‘Among all the photos of the game, Reuters has chosen this one, which only shows how ugly they are,’ the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka tweeted.
‘Don’t put politics and ideologies above sports, and call yourself an unbiased media organisation. Shameless. Respect the spirit of Olympics.’
China’s Global Times, which acts as a propaganda outlet for the Chinese Communist Party, was quick to repost the tweet and captioned the embassy’s message: ‘Pls respect Olympic spirit Reuters!’
Chinese weightlifter Hou Zhihui won the first weightlifting gold of the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday, the first of three gold medals won by her country
The Beijing regime mouthpiece also published an article accusing CNN and Reuters of ‘unfairly targeting China’ in their coverage of the Tokyo Olympic Games.
‘The selection of the photo also angered Chinese netizens. Some on Sina Weibo said it only exposes the ‘mean’ face of Western media,’ author Liu Caiyu wrote.
‘See how evil they are, not respecting Hou at all,’ one user said. Another Weibo user commented that the ‘smear and defame won’t stop Chinese athletes winning honor for the country.’
The weightlifter at the centre of the war of words was asked to remain in Tokyo before flying home under the advice of anti-doping officials.
The report from India claimed silver-medalist Mirabai Chanu could be upgraded to the gold medal if Hou Zhihui tests positive for a banned substance.
The diplomats were quickly backed by state-run Chinese media organisation Global Times, who slammed the media agency for a lack of respect for Olympic spirit
Twitter users were quick to point out another state-run propaganda outlet, China Daily, posted an almost identical photo of the athlete in its coverage.
Other Twitter users said they felt surprised the image had been perceived by the embassy as ‘ugly’ or inappropriate.
‘I don’t see anything ugly. Just a confident, painstaking triumph,’ one tweeted.
‘It’s only ugly to you. I see an athlete on her way to bag an Olympic medal,’ another user said.
‘I think it’s a well-captured photograph, which shows nothing good in life comes easy,’ a third wrote.
‘It’s quite sad the embassy finds this ‘ugly’. If it was a beauty pageant then it’s a different matter.’
The Chinese Embassy continued to make comparisons of Reuters’s choice of coverage by contrasting photos of other athletes
The embassy fired back to the tweets, comparing Reuters coverage of the win side-by-side with images posted on the official Olympics website.
‘Ms Hou Zhihui is definitely beautiful, with all her power and efforts. It’s not about this photo, it’s about their biased and intentional choice,’ it wrote.
The backflip was a nonsensical attempt to reframe its original tweet, which clearly stated the photo made Zhihui look ugly.
The Chinese Embassy continued to make comparisons of Reuters’s choice of coverage by contrasting photos of other athletes.
‘Same day, same Olympics, same Reuters, different faces. Maybe it’s because everything good in life comes easier for the white westerners?,’ it tweeted.
‘We said that these biased MSM are ugly. Never the athletes. They’re beautiful.’