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Athlete, Darfur activist Cheek denied China visa

Latest update : 2008-08-06

US athlete Joey Cheek has seen his Chinese visa revoked by the authorities. He was planning with other athletes in Beijing to raise awareness of the situation in Darfur, a cause for which he has actively campaigned.

Joey Cheek, a US Winter Olympics gold medallist and campaigner for an end to violence in Darfur, had his visa to enter China revoked 24 hours before leaving for the country, rights groups said Wednesday.

"The Chinese embassy in Washington DC revoked the visa of Olympic gold medallist and Team Darfur co-founder Joey Cheek to travel to Beijing for the Olympic Games," activist group Team Darfur said in an emailed statement.

Cheek was to go to Beijing to support athletes who signed onto Team Darfur, a coalition of athletes raising awareness of the situation in the Darfur region of Sudan.

"The Chinese government official who called Cheek stated simply that he was 'not required to give a reason' for revoking visas," the organisation said.

"It's one thing to have an application for a visa rejected, but it's another thing to have a visa revoked," said Jonathan Freedman, a spokesman for activist group Dream for Darfur.

China has close ties with Sudan, as one of the main buyers of the African nation's oil and a key investor in its economy, and rights groups have accused Beijing of not doing enough to try and resolve the conflict in Darfur.

The conflict began in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated regime and state-backed militias.

The United Nations has said that 300,000 people have died in Darfur and that more than 2.2 million have been displaced since 2003. The Sudanese government puts the number of fatalities at 10,000.

Date created : 2008-08-06

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