A complaint from a Chinese embassy about a western news wire’s “ugly” choice of an Olympic weightlifting photo backfired on Sunday after it emerged that a state-backed outlet used a similar image.

“Don’t put politics and ideologies above sports, and call yourself an unbiased media organization. Shameless. Respect the spirit of #Olympics,” the embassy in Sri Lanka tweeted.

Reuters used a photo of Chinese weightlifting gold winner Hou Zhihui straining to lift a barbell. However, state-run Xinhua, Sina and China Daily also ran similar images of Hou, though the latter replaced theirs.

“Maybe it’s because everything good in life comes easier for the white westerners?” the embassy said in a follow-up tweet.

A Chinese netizen on Sina Weibo claimed western media were “evil” and “not respecting Hou at all,” according to state-backed Global Times. “[S]mear and defame won’t stop Chinese athletes winning honour for the country,” another said.

Photo: Google.

Twitter users were less supportive. “Ah, another embassy social media account manager embarrasses himself yet again in another spectacular self-own. How does China’s foreign ministry put up with this blatant hackery?” asked one user.

Photos of athletes grimacing in concentration or exerting themselves are a common part of the Olympics.

Support HKFP  |  Code of Ethics  |  Error/typo?  |  Contact Us  |  Newsletter  | Transparency & Annual Report

Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit, Hong Kong Free Press is #PressingOn with impartial, award-winning, frontline coverage.

Tom Grundy

Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.