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Beijing Olympics: 'Ethnic' children revealed as fakes in opening ceremony

August 17, 2008

Another section of the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony has been
exposed as faked - the children supposedly representing the country's
56 ethnic groups were in fact all from the same one, the majority Han
Chinese race.
By Richard Spencer in Beijing
The Telegraph
August 15, 2008

The children carried the national flag into the Bird's Nest National
Stadium, before handing it over to soldiers to raise at the most
solemn moment of the ceremony.

They were dressed in costumes associated with the country's ethnic
minorities, including those from troubled areas such as Tibet and the
muslim province of Xinjiang. Such displays of "national unity" are a
compulsory part of any major state occasion.

But the children were all from the Han Chinese majority, which makes
up more than 90 per cent of the population and is culturally and
politically dominant, according to an official with the cultural
troupe from which they were selected.

"I assume they think the kids were very natural looking and nice,"
Yuan Zhifeng, deputy director of the Galaxy Children's Art Troupe said.

The official guide to the opening ceremony said that the children did
not just represent but came from China's ethnic groups.

"Fifty-six children from 56 Chinese ethnic groups cluster around the
Chinese national flag, representing the 56 ethnic groups," it said.

This point was put to Wang Wei, executive vice-president of the
Beijing organising committee at a press conference today.

"I think you are being very meticulous," he said. He said it was
"traditional" to use dancers from other ethnic groups in this way.

"I would argue it is normal for dancers, performers, to be dressed in
other races' clothes," he said. "I don't know exactly where these
performers are from."

The initial triumph of the opening ceremony has already been clouded
by revelations that the little girl who sand "Hymn to the
Motherland", a patriotic Chinese anthem, was lip-synching to the
pre-recorded voice of another girl who had been told she was not
pretty enough to appear.

The "footprint fireworks" shown on television were also pre-recorded
and digitally enhanced.

The mother of one of the children involved, who represented the
Hezhe, a group of nomads from north-eastern China who are one of its
smallest minorities, revealed that some of the children had
originally been auditioned also to sing the anthem, but been turned down.

The woman, who does not give her real name on the blog in which she
described her feelings, said it involved gruelling days of rehearsal,
from 3pm sometimes until 2am the next morning.

"I never thought my little girl would be taking part in the Olympics
opening ceremony," she wrote. "Days later I still haven't calmed down.

"Now the ceremony is over, and my girl has completed her mission.

"She told me proudly: 'Mum, I contributed to our country, I am very proud."

The discovery that the children representing ethnic groups as diverse
as Mongolians and members of the Li group from the south-western
mountains were all in fact Han will hardly be noticed in China, where
such practices are normal.

Nevertheless it is a sign of how sensitive ethnic relations in China
are. At national Communist Party and state congresses, while the Han
Chinese delegates all wear suits, carefully chosen members of ethnic
minorities are told to wear traditional costume.

"Minority dances" are a regular part of state-sponsored
entertainments, with performers coming from all over the country
without having to belong to the relevant group.
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