Children from China’s dominant Han population were used in a key part of the Olympics opening ceremony, not youngsters from all 56 ethnic groups as claimed, an official has said.
If true, it would be the third high-profile faking incident of the ceremony, after it was revealed a girl was substituted as a singer because she was deemed too ugly, and supposedly live fireworks on the TV broadcast were pre-recorded.
The 56 children who carried out the Chinese flag in a moment meant to showcase national harmony were all from the Han majority, an official with the dance troupe that they belonged to told the Asian Wall Street Journal.
“I assume they think the kids were very natural looking and nice,” the paper quoted Yuan Zhifeng, deputy director of Galaxy Children’s Art Troupe, as saying.
The troupe is made up exclusively of children from the Han ethnic group, which accounts for more than 90 percent of China’s more than 1.3 billion people, according to the paper.
Official Chinese television shows and other performances often feature the Han Chinese representing minority groups.
However Olympic organisers said directly that the children were from all 56 official ethnic groups.
“Fifty-six children from 56 Chinese ethnic groups cluster around the Chinese national flag, representing the 56 ethnic groups,” read the media guide for the opening ceremony distributed on the night.
The apparent fakery comes at a sensitive time for China over its ethnic groups, as Buddhist Tibetans and Muslim Uighurs have sought to use the Olympic spotlight to publicise what some say has been repression under Chinese rule.
A person who answered the phone at the troupe on Friday would not answer questions from AFP.
A spokesman for Beijing Olympic organisers was not immediately available to comment