Exclusive: US-based PR professional receives death threats for contract to promote Beijing 2022, says Olympics should not be politized
Tirade of attacks
Published: Feb 14, 2022 10:57 PM
An athlete competes during the women's slopestyle qualification at the 2022 Winter Olympics on February 14, 2022. Photo: VCG

An athlete competes during the women's slopestyle qualification at the 2022 Winter Olympics on February 14, 2022. Photo: VCG

After being contracted by Chinese government to strategize on the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, a US-based PR company came under malicious attacks.

Recalling those vitriolic attacks from the US media, US lawmakers, and the Indian press, Vipinder Jaswal, founder of the PR company, Vippi Media, said the attacks were misplaced and that the Olympics should not be so politicized.

Media reported that US-based PR company Vippi Media had signed a $300,000 contract with the Chinese consulate general in New York to "strategize and execute" an influencer-led campaign to promote the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games. The contract states that each influencer involved will produce three to five deliverables, and 70 percent of the package content should be culture-related such as Beijing's history, cultural artifacts, and youth trends, while another 20 percent would be dedicated to outline cooperation and mutually benefit China-US relations, according to the Business Insider.

After the contract was revealed, Jaswal was subjected to a number of attacks from US media, US lawmakers, and some Indian media, including vicious comments and harassment, and even received death threats.

"Attacks are coming from both mainstream and social media. People are going onto my website and e-mailing me death threats. I'm [also] getting phone calls. Some of the most malicious accusations I received called me 'a prostitute of China,' or 'China's puppet,' or a 'villain, a fascist.' They say I am spreading propaganda. They want me to die on the Communist Party of China (CPC) dollars," Jaswal told the Global Times.

He said he expected controversy and pushback, but not this tirade of hate.  "I'm not a mouthpiece for anybody. I do what I think is fair because human beings deserve that."

The campaign involves social media influencers, who are ex-Olympians, and vloggers from food, fashion, and other industries with content to support all the athletes including Team USA, Jaswal explained.

"It's an event of the human spirit, but not a political one," said Jaswal. 

Vipinder Jaswal Photo: Courtesy of Jaswal

Vipinder Jaswal Photo: Courtesy of Jaswal

"My mandate was to create a level of excitement, engagement, and awareness with the people. We are not issuing any political messages. I don't understand where the hate, the death threats, and the death wishes are coming from. Some of them have not even seen my work. It's interesting to see people's over-reaction."

"I have nothing to hide, but with all the death threats and the death wishes, I now have to protect my social media influencers," he said.

Jaswal told the Global Times that his job is "essentially to preserve the integrity and the dignity of the Olympics as a global event for the whole world."

The attack began in December of 2021, as reflected in accusations from Republican senator Rick Scott, one of the loudest anti-China hardliners to promote US' "Cold War" against China. 

Scott has repeatedly spread rumors and lies to defame China. He shocked many in 2020 when he said every single Chinese citizen is a "Communist spy."

Guardian reported that Jaswal has been under heavy scrutiny since his contract with the Chinese consulate. On January 3, Rick Scott urged in a letter to Newsweek's top brass to "reconsider its relationship with Vipp Jaswal" as Jaswal is also a Newsweek contributor.

"He said that because I am associated with China, I should be removed from other organizations, or if I am going to continue with them, they should be informed that I am dealing with China," Jaswal said.

"He chose me to attack, which I find very bizarre and wrong. For a senator to say that reflects a dereliction of and distraction from duty, because his hierarchy of priorities is misplaced. The senator chose me to be his first order of PR business for 2022, while his own state was suffering from COVID-19, and they've had other issues - economic and so on," said Jaswal. 

Jaswal said he cannot understand such hatred because the "Olympics is covered by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It's not governed by the US or China, or India, or Africa, or anything like that."

"I totally disagreed with the diplomatic boycott, as it does not achieve anything. So many Asian Americans are winning. If China and America come together, champions are made," said Jaswal.

Jaswal said he was shocked when he got attacked by Indian media which he called the "20-minute media assassination on him." 

"They had four guests on that show attacking me, saying that I should be removed from the community, that I am a traitor. They said I'm a disgrace. That's not media. That's an attempted hit job on someone. It is nonsensical sensationalism," said Jaswal.

The US has the world's largest PR market and has many world-scale PR firm headquarters. But only China-related PR activities seem to generate such strong backlash. Jaswal's PR campaign operated well within the bounds of propriety, and should not be bashed as long as it remains within the confines of the law, Li Haidong, a professor from the Institute of International Relations at the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times.

Amid so much biased mainstream media coverage, hiring American public relations firms would help promote objective understanding of China among the American people, said Li, noting that the backlash, spearheaded by Senator Scott for instance, is both rooted in arrogance and is entirely unreasonable. 

Jaswal believes that such attacks on his cooperation with China reflect precisely the fact that some people "tend to be scared of success," especially China's rapid success within a short period of time. "There is an element of skepticism and suspicion. No politician is going to celebrate another country's success, because it'll make them look bad," he said.

Despite the so-called political boycott against the Games, people are not fooled and many are still genuinely enjoying watching the Games. That's a reality, but also a story that never gets told, Jaswal said.