Little trouble in big China

Dutch reporter’s run-in with security is embarrassing for Olympic hosts, but not worthy of overblowing

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The Olympics are underway, and China is showing the world that all that talk about totalitarianism and suppression of freedom is… uh… well, let’s check in with Sjoerd den Daas, the East Asia correspondent for the Dutch news network NOS.

Yeah, that’s not so good.

According to the Daily Mail’s reporting, the person accosting den Daas was a “Public Security Volunteer,” as identified by his red armband — basically citizens deputized to maintain order during the Games. And it appears, as den Daas was able to finish his reporting minutes later, that the issue was where he was broadcasting from, off a sidewalk by a highway overpass.


The Mail’s headline about the incident, “Communist goons drag away a Dutch reporter,” is a lot more sensationalist than this deserves. Had den Daas really been “dragged away” by “goons” in the manner those words suggest, he would not have been back on the air shortly thereafter. That’s not really how goons operate.

What appears to have happened is that den Daas was in a spot where he wasn’t supposed to be filming, and a man feeling empowered by his new status as a Public Security Volunteer decided to be a hardass about it. It doesn’t scan much differently from a mall cop going on a power trip, just with the exceptionally bad timing of being on live international TV, in a situation where the host nation of the Olympics already is, rightfully, under tremendous scrutiny for how it treats journalists and its own people.

An Uyghur man being sentenced to death over books, for instance, is an outrage. This is an incident that hints at the deeper trouble in China, but in itself is something that could have happened in any Olympic city from Atlanta to Paris, a person being in an unfamiliar position of authority looking to flex at the exact wrong time.

Meanwhile, in America…

There’s being a bad teammate, and then there’s sending a letter to your school to ask that your teammate not be allowed to compete.


That’s what 16 Penn swimmers did, siding with the NCAA over their teammate Lia Thomas, who has qualified for next month’s collegiate championships, but is at the center of controversy because she is trans and new NCAA policies that go into effect later this year will require testosterone testing for trans athletes.

These swimmers, from Thomas’ own team, want her barred now because, according to the letter written on their behalf by Nancy Hogshead-Makar, “Biologically, Lia holds an unfair advantage over competition in the women’s category.”


These are cowards who could not bring themselves to attach their names to their argument, and that’s pathetic. There’s a legitimate conversation and debate to be had about trans athletes and at what point fairness is an issue with hormone therapy timelines, balancing trans athletes’ right to compete with equitable competition. Hiding behind Hogshead-Makar in anonymity isn’t it, and it’s a shame that these Penn swimmers are too scared — because they know they’re doing their own teammate dirty — to publicly stand by their position in that conversation and debate.