Internet darling Fu Yuanhui could be invited to join Chinese Olympians’ visit to Hong Kong

Chef de mission Kenneth Fok says he ‘will try’ to get bronze medal swimmer to attend, but trip is intended for gold medallists only

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2016, 8:50pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 12:23pm

Chinese gold medal winners from the Rio Olympics are set to visit Hong Kong later this month, but bronze medallist and overnight internet sensation Fu Yuanhui might also receive an invitation.

Asked about the popular swimmer during a live phone interview from Rio with RTHK, Hong Kong chef de mission Kenneth Fok Kai-kong said he would try to invite her, but the trip was planned for gold medallists only.

“The Olympic Committee of Hong Kong has invited the national team, but it is up to the national team to decide who will come. According to past practices, it is usually reserved for the gold medallists because there will be a lot of them if gold, silver and bronze winners all come,” he said.

“We will bring up the issue [about Fu], and I hope we have the opportunity to invite her.”

Funny girl: China’s ‘surprised’ medal winner Fu Yuanhui becomes an instant internet darling

While Fu is the first Chinese Olympian to earn a medal in the backstroke, it is her hilarious post-race interviews that have engaged millions of new online fans in China and around the world.

During the interview, Fok also clarified that the visit is planned for August 26–28, not August 27–29 as previously reported.

“There will be performances, they will be showcasing their skills in table tennis, badminton and diving, having a close contact with residents as well as sharing their experience ... It will be meaningful because the athletes were trained for years, and they will be coming to Hong Kong and Macau after just a few days of rest in Beijing or at home,” Fok said.

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The chef de mission was speaking amid concern that despite the trip being intended to inspire local fans and encourage social cohesion with Beijing, the athletes could face a backlash due to the rising “pro-independence sentiment” ahead of the coming Legislative Council elections, which will take place in September, soon after the visit.

Asked if he was worried about some Hongkongers not welcoming Chinese athletes, Fok said: “I’m not worried, because a lot of residents and sport lovers want to get in touch with Chinese and Hong Kong athletes. This should be the theme, I don’t want it to be mixed with those emotions.”

The government should be prepared for some embarrassing moments when the medallists are confronted with anti-China protests
Dr Chung Kim-wah, Polytechnic University

He added: “This event should not be politicised ... I hope people will see the athletes based on their achievements.”

A Hong Kong government spokesman earlier said: “The Chinese Olympic Committee has accepted the invitation by the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong for the mainland gold medallists to visit Hong Kong after the Rio Games closes.”

Athletes likely to visit the city will be gold medal heroes such as Zhang Mengxue, winner of the women’s 10-metre air pistol event; swimming star Sun Yang; and Wu Minxia, the five-time diving gold medallist.

It has become the norm for the Chinese Olympic gold medal winners to visit Hong Kong after the Games. By coincidence, the Summer Games and Hong Kong’s Legco elections take place in the same year, and usually the medallists’ visit would take place before the polls.

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Political analyst Dr Chung Kim-wah of Polytechnic University however warned this visit could backfire in the wake of the rise of pro-independence sentiment in Hong Kong.

“The visit, like those in the past, is supposed to promote social harmony and drum up social support for Beijing and the Hong Kong government. But the government should be prepared for some embarrassing moments when the medallists are confronted with anti-China protests,” Chung said.