What’s up with Eileen Gu?

by | Feb 23, 2022 | IMMIGRATION LAW

Now that the Olympics are over, there are still unanswered questions about the free style skiing sensation Eileen Gu. As we know, she is a very talented athlete who won three medals at the Beijing Games – two of them gold.
She is the daughter of a Chinese mother and an unidentified father. She was raised by her single mother as a single parent in California, where she was born, spent summers in China and is headed to Stanford in the fall. That said, she elected to ski for her mother’s home country – China.
Of course being born in the United States she’s a natural born United States citizen. This is true under common law, the 14th Amendment of the Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court decision in U.S. v Wong Kim (1898). Natural born citizenship is not available in many countries unless the child’s father is a citizen of that country. The United States is more generous and does not have that requirement.
So why and how did Eileen Gu choose China over the United States? She publicly states that it’s because she wants to be a role model for women in China and to “unite people, promote common understanding, create communication and friendship between nations.” Those more cynical among us see dollar signs as the deciding factor as she is receiving many endorsements from Chinese entities.
The other big question, and the one that interests lawyers and politicos, is did she give up her United States citizenship in order to compete for China? She refuses to answer the question publicly. The conundrum is that she is required by USOC to carry a passport from the country she is representing and China doesn’t allow dual citizenship. Indeed China has been reported to be so aggressive about the dual citizenship issue that they encourage their citizens to report individuals suspected of carrying two passports. Many countries require an oath of allegiance, that swears loyalty and to forsake all other countries. Indeed, the United States has such an oath despite the fact that the United States allows dual citizenship. Rejecting loyalty to the United States at a foreign oath ceremony would not be enough to legally renounce United States citizenship. In fact, the U.S. renunciation process is a formal one that requires multiple forms, filing fees and an interview with an officer from the United States government.
The New York Times reports there “is no record of Ms. Gu having renounced her American Citizenship.” A Freedom of Information Act request would yield this information and the New York Times may well have gone that route. Further if Ms. Gu did renounce her U.S. Citizenship her life going forward would be very complicated. She would need a Visa to visit the U.S. as China is not a visa waiver country and she would need a student visa to attend college.
She is not the typical Olympian that chooses to represent a country other than his or her own native country. Most, if not all, of those individuals do so because they were unable to earn a spot on their home country’s team because it’s too competitive.
Considering all of the aforementioned it’s likely, as Sports Illustrated has reported, that Ms. Gu struck a deal with the Chines government to allow her to keep her U.S. passport and she, in exchange, agreed to keep quiet about it.
She’s made her choice. Is she a wise idealist or a pawn of the Chinese government propaganda apparatus? We may never know.

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