Recent controversy has been swirling over the real age of China’s Gold-Medal gymnast He Kexin, who edged out U.S. gymnast Nastia Liuken for the gold medal in the un-even bars.
The youngest age for women to compete in the Olympics is 16-years-old, but several Internet sites, news reports, and even former U.S. womens gymnastics coach Bela Karoli are alleging that Kexin was born in 1994, making her 14-years-old and ineligible to compete in the Beijing games.
Although Kexin’s passport indicates that she was born in 1992, speculations about the girl’s real age have fueled an astonishing investigation on world-wide search engines.
A blogger known as ‘Stryde Hax,’ began an independent probe into the ages of the Chinese gymnasts by searching for primary state-issued documents. His claim is that once these official documents were made public, he should have been able to easily search and access them on the Internet.
Stryde first searched Google.com, asking it to search all Chinese web pages for “He Kexin” and “1994”. He reported that Google returned one result, an Excel spreadsheet listing all of the Chinese Athletes’ birthdates. Upon clicking on the result, he discovered that the document was no longer available, but he could still access it by clicking on the “View as HTML” option which provided the cached web page. When he viewed the Excel document, He Kexin’s name was missing from the list of athletes competing in the Beijing Olympics.
Google’s help page states that “…the cached content is the content Google uses to judge whether this page is a relevant match for your query.”
Next, Stryde searched Baidu, a Chinese language search engine with its own cache and search index. He discovered when he used the search string “site:cn 何可欣 filetype:xls 1994”, which translates to any Excel document with ‘He Kexin’s’ and ‘1994’, it provided two search results with two different excel spreadsheets. Again, when he clicked on the link, the document had been removed.
Again, he was able to view the original cached copy of the document. Stryde explains that the document was available for any user to search and view, without accessing it through Baidu’s cache, until very recently. Stryde poses the question on his blog,
“Do these documents have anything to say about Kexin?” In fact, they do. One document that was located on sport.gov.cn,
clearly lists Kexin’s birthday as 1-1-1994, making her 14-years-old. Stryde claims that these documents are official since they were issued by the General Administration of Sport of China.
Stryde published his theory about the missing Excel documents which alleges that not only is Kexin’s real age 14, but rather, a greater conspiracy is brewing:
“Google’s cached copy of the spreadsheet does not contain Kexin’s age record, and Baidu’s does. This does not necessarily imply that Google allowed its data to be rewritten by Chinese censors, but the possibility does present itself.”
“From the minute I pressed the publish button on this blog, the clock is ticking until Kexin’s true age is wiped out of the Baidu cache forever. It is up to you, the folks reading this blog, to take your own screenshots and notarize them by publishing them. If you put a link in the comments section, I’ll post it.”
Stryde states that his intentions are not to reveal the true age of the gymnast, but to attempt to “demonstrate the power of free citizens to subvert government censorship. The finer points of gymnastics competitions are outside the scope of this post.”
The NY Times recently conducted their own search of these Excel documents. Stryde believes that, “it may have been visits by the NY Times reporter to the official web site that originally caused the Excel spreadsheets to be deleted. I find it unfortunate that the NY Times did not ‘notarize’ and redistribute the primary documents when they were found, if this is the case.”
Hundreds of user comments flooded the blog, most posting links to more screenshots of the Excel documents and some arguing that they were unable to find any results on Google using Stryde’s original search terms.
There are several critics who also posted comments on Stryde’ blog claiming that the name ’He Kexin’ is not unique and that it could be the name of another athlete or that there must have been a typo in the official Excel document. Others state that Stryde should have used other search terms like “1990-1996” or other variations/spellings of her name in order to conduct a more scientific approach.
In order to combat the allegations that He Kexin is a victim of mistaken identity, Stryde ran the original document, still cached on Baidu’s search results, through Google translator and it clearly read:
“799, BB He Kexin CC female AA 1994.1.01 Beijing and
Beijing Beijing Municipal Sports Bureau, First Note”
Stryde ran another search on Google.cn.com searching for the original Excel spreadsheets. His findings were again , odd, because he discovered a new spreadsheet, entitled “05ticao.xls”. After several hours, he searched again and his results were “eye-opening.”
“Expunged entirely from Google.cn’s search index is my original find, zctc.xls. Down the memory hole,” Stryde writes.
For now, Kexin’s real age will be left up for debate. Chinese officials have stated that the 1994 birth date was a discrepancy in the documents. The International Olympics Committee is currently conducting its own investigation. No matter what the result of the investigation is, the rapidly disappearing results from Google.com, Google.cn, and Baidu’s search engine results should be an indicator that Internet users need to stand up to censorship.
It would take hard evidence and confessions to forgery in order to prove that He Kexin is in direct violation of the age limit, and even harder evidence to prove that the U.S. Google’s data has been censored by any government. Stryde believes that digital document forgery is “invisibly malleable” because we lack the tools to track any changes. “The coming wave of remote application providers like Google Docs might someday be able to provide us with a chain-of-trust type solution to this problem, but that day is a long way off.”
Stryder’s evidence has been corroborated by Epoch Times and other news sources, including Kaxin’s own wiki. Kaxin’s wiki documents the removal of several Chinese news articles on the Web that previously reported her age as 13 in November of 2007, and 14 earlier this year. Her date of birth is currently listed as, “January 1, Disputed Year.”
As of Saturday, Aug. 23, the document that was available through the Baidu cache has since been removed.
Stryder claims that he is dedicated to exposing government online censorship and state sponsored fraud.
“For the first time I watched search records shift under my feet like sand, facts draining down a hole in the Internet. Will this stand?” Stryde questioned on his blog.
When Kexin was asked by journalists weeks ago about the debate of her real age, she said, “My real age is 16. I don’t care what other people say.”