Sun Yang: A jerk or a wretch?

by Wong Hoi Tung


Sun Yang, the Chinese Olympic and world-record-holder, who is also the most contentious swimmer at Rio Olympics 2016. He is the first Chinese man who won an Olympic gold medal in swimming. However, his glory history is not the reason for him becoming the subject of controversial media attention. Yang allegedly splashed his competitor, Mack Horton, in the warm-up pool before the 400-meter freestyle even and then being called a “drug cheat” by Horton after Horton beating him. Yang denied knowing Horton on the next day and declared that he is the king and new world. His behaviours and Horton’s speech have raised extensive media coverage of his private life. His stories successfully gain great attention from the public. Some states that he is a jerk and the opposite opinion argues that he is just a poor wretch.



Justin Peters’ “Olympics Jerk Watch: The Chinese Swimmer Who Kick and Splashes People” and Claire Harvey’s “Sun Yang should have our support and empathy – not our ridicule” which published on Daily Telegraph in August 2016 are two articles that hold different views about what kind of person Sun Yang is. Justin’s article claims that Yang is a jerk but Claire’s says he is just a poor Chinese swimmer manipulated by China.


Not both of these two articles reveal explicitly of what kind of person Yang is. “Olympics Jerk Watch: The Chinese Swimmer Who Kick and Splashes People” published on Slate in August 2016 clearly states its stance that Sun Yang is jerk with its tittle. Since Yang kicking and splashing people had already been widely discussed before this article, mentioning these behaviours has an obvious purpose of conveying Yang as the main subject in the article. The use of “Watch” is for telling people to check out why is Yang an Olympics jerk.


Claire’s tittle of her article does not just explicitly saying that Yang is or is not a jerk, but tells readers to give him “support and empathy”. People do not support jerk in normal sense, therefore, the tittle actually implicates that Yang is not a jerk so he deserves people’s support and empathy.


Both of the two articles are mainly combined by evaluative argument. The central primary claim of “Olympics Jerk Watch: The Chinese Swimmer Who Kick and Splashes People” is that Yang is a jerk. Justin justifies that Yang has done several jerk-seeming things such as explaining about ramming his car into a bus without driving license, tussling with Brazilian swimmer and splashing other swimmer. This justification appeals to social norms. The underlying warrant of Justin’s principle claim is that Yang is a very disrespectful and inconsiderate.


Sun is one of China’s best and most controversial swimmers. He won two gold medals in London in 2012,in the 400-meter freestyle and the 1,500-meter freestyle, setting an Olympic record in the former and a world record in the latter. Since then, he has done several jerk-seeming things.


Sun’s tenure at the Rio Olympics has been predictably controversial. Last week, he splashed rival Australian swimmer Mack Horton during a practice session, a maneuver Horton interpreted as hostile and disruptive.”


Justin uses very explicit phases and wordings to express how he thinks that Yang is a jerk and how bad the things has Yang done. In the paragraph talking about the car crash incident, Justin mentions Yang’s bad excuse for ramming his car into a bus while driving without a license. Yang told the public that he has been focusing on training and competition so he only had a hazy knowledge of the law, which led to his mistake. Justin claims that Yang’s attitude is jerk and he did not really care whether or not anyone believed him because his explanation makes no sense. This justification appeals to ethical and other social norms as well since everyone should know that driving without license is illegal. The warrant behind tells that Yang does not care how people see him because he is arrogant. Justin describes this excuse is “one of the worst excuses I have ever heard” and mentions Yang’s attitude is “pretty jerk”. The tone Justin uses is quite emotional and the use of “I have ever heard” is filled with subjective and emotive colour.


In 2014, he spent a week in jail after he rammed his car into a bus while driving without a license. In explanation, Sun offered one of the worst excuses I have ever heard: “Because I have been focusing on training and competition, I had only a hazy knowledge of the law, which led to my mistake.” I’ve never met the guy, but you’d have to imagine Sun knew this was a bad excuse and yet used it anyway, which implies he didn’t really care whether or not anyone believed him, which is a pretty jerky attitude to take, given that, you know, he collided with a bus.”


Informal fallacy is also involved in this article. When talking about the positive result for testing a banned substance- the stimulant trimetazidine, Justin uses a subjective word “excuse” instead of “reason” to describe Yang’s explanation. The author simply presumes and evaluate that Yang’s reason is an excuse without evidence. He also satirize that this reason is just a better excuse. However, this sarcasm also put readers in a position to view Yang negatively because it implicates that no matter how Yang explain is always unreliable.


That same year, Sun tested positive for a banned substance—the stimulant trimetazidine—and received a three-month suspension from the China Anti-Doping Agency. His excuse this time, that the medication he took for chest pains contained trimetazidine, was better than his bus accident excuse, I guess


Justin lists out all the “jerk-seeming” behaviours in paragraphs according to the timeline. Each paragraph starts with the year when the incident happened and ends with explicitly stating that Yang is the jerk due to those incidents. These are the characteristics of the article.


Despite the content of “Why he might be a jerk” covers two-thirds of the article, it also has a small paragraph as counter argument starts with: “Why he might not be a jerk”. The author rebuts his previous allegations toward Yang. He starts off with “To be fair” to make his argument more completed with different angles. In this paragraph, he claims that Yang’s splash can be a convivial gesture because it demonstrated in Bobby Darin’s classic Olympic swimming anthem “Splish Splash”. The justification appeals to precedent and customary practice, there is a previous example of positive splashing so Yang splashing might not be necessarily negative. Nonetheless, it involves informal fallacy of non sequitur since there is no any logical and direct relationship between Bobby Darin’s splash and Yang’s slash.


To be fair, this Mack Horton guy seems like kind of a jerk himself. Also, splashing can be a convivial gesture, as demonstrated in Bobby Darin’s classic Olympic swimming anthem “Splish Splash.” And I haven’t seen it conclusively demonstrated that Sun doesn’t have heart problems. Finally, Sun’s blowup with his coach apparently came after said coach tried to get him to dump his girlfriend so he could spend more time in the pool. You tell me who was the real jerk in that situation.”


When readers read “Olympics Jerk Watch: The Chinese Swimmer Who Kick and Splashes People”, they are positioned to take a negative view of the Yang. The main claim of this article conveys Yang negatively with respect to credibility and plausibility of the words from his mouth. Justin uses “excuse” to describe every explanation from Yang’s mouth. The author’s approach is obviously trying to portrait Yang as a very dishonest, irresponsible and inconsideration person, basically a jerk. The words and phases he uses in the article are generally mixture of direct blaming and sarcasm.


The other article, “Sun Yang should have our support and empathy – not our ridicule”, has a completely different view and stance. “I feel sorry for Sun Yang” is the very first sentence and paragraph of the article. The tone of her expresses how Clare really feels pity and sorry about Sun Yang. In the first sentence of second paragraph, her words: “Yeah, I know China’s bad-boy swimmer is Australia’s public enemy.” shows that although everyone else does not like him, she is still going to write things that she wants, even that it might hurt people who do not like Yang.


” I feel sorry for Sun Yang.”

“Yeah, I know China’s bad-boy swimmer is Australia’s public enemy. I know he tested positive to a banned substance. I know he splashed Mack Horton in a training pool.”



Claire’s primary claim is that we should not humiliate Sun Yang because he is only a victim that manipulated by China’s medal-winning ambition. The underlying warrant is that a victim deserves our empathy. However, it is evaluative presumption of informal fallacies since she does not give strong evidence to support that Yang’s scandals are all because that he is controlled by China. That is all her own evaluative presumption. Claire raises questions to doubt the actual causes of Yang’s scandals but she does not give a strong answer that makes sense.


“Sun Yang is a victim. He’s a cog in the relentless machinery of China’s medal-winning ambition; a mere tool for Beijing’s desire to prove itself the equal, and the better, of the United States in every field of human endeavour. Just as Beijing redesigns the South China Sea to show America just how powerful it is, China’s Olympic mandarins have colonised the bloodstreams of their athletes.”


Claire has two major approaches in the article. First, shift the focus from blaming Yang to how the others can handle things better. For the “drug cheat” scandal, she says that Mack Horton could have showed some empathy instead of humiliating Sun. Second, always provides an explanation for his scandal, which she always shifts Yang’s responsibility to the others.


She claims that Horton acts like a schoolgirl and hurt Yang’s feelings because he ignores Yang and remarks Yang as drug cheat. Informal fallacies is involved. It is a use of ad hominem Argument. This fallacy substitutes irrelevant judgements of an individual for reasonable evaluations of an issue.


Maybe, instead of publicly humiliating Sun, Australian gold medallist Mack Horton could have showed some empathy. Horton could have said he wished China didn’t sacrifice the health of its athletes by making them take drugs. Or Horton could have been a bit less of a schoolgirl about copping what he himself described as a friendly splash, given that he was already in a swimming pool. “He splashed me to say hi and I ignored him because I don’t have time for drug cheats,” Horton said. That remark clearly hurt Sun’s feelings, and it helped motivate him to win his own gold medal.”



There is a paragraph talking about the superior background of Yang, as a justification to support her claims about Yang is a problem child. She mentions about many scandal of Yang and claims that those scandal could not be trustworthy because the national pride of Chinese is low. It involves non sequitur since Chinese’s high national pride does not have direct relationship with whether Yang’s scandals are trustworthy or not.


The article concluded in the point that Yang is a talented young man who does not make every decision by himself and he has been controlled by China government, therefore, maybe people should be on his side.


The whole article of Claire basically just lists out many of the scandal of Yang with a few sentences of evaluations, mostly tells that she does not think things are true or Yang could be innocent. Her article lacks of strong justification and evidence. Therefore, her article is mainly combined by factual argument and evaluative argument. However, it involves a lot informal fallacies.


“It might feel good for Australians to dismiss Sun Yang as just another drug cheat — but to me, that interpretation fails to acknowledge the obvious. Sun, like every other Chinese athlete, is the employee of a regime that practises brutal repression of its own people, military intimidation of its regional neighbours and a single-minded pursuit of glory.”

“To me, Sun Yang’s a phenomenally talented young man kicking against the pricks, as much as he possibly can. Maybe we should be on his side.”


Peters, J. (2016). Olympics Jerk Watch: The Chinese Swimmer Who Kicks and Splashes People. Slate. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Nov. 2016].

Harvey, C. (2016). Sun Yang should have our support and empathy — not our ridicule. The Daily Telegraph. [online] Available at:–not-our-ridicule/news-story/84546dc2ea2e8de9131e126f11f6b9c1 [Accessed 2 Nov. 2016].


2016 Mong Kok Unrest – Is it just an unreasonable riot or government responsibility?

2016 Mong Kok Unrest
by Hoi Tung Wong z5025558


Since the Umbrella Revolution(Occupy Movement) in 2014, the relationship between the public and the Hong Kong Police forced has become more and more strained due to many different controversies. In 8 February 2016, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) cracked down on unlicensed street hawkers during the Chinese New Year holidays. The Hong Kong Indigenous, a radical localist activist group formed after Occupy Movement, called for action online to shield the hawkers. Violent clashes broke out eventually between police and protesters. This incident is widely covered by media with different angles. The Hong Kong government has classified the incident as a “riot” and some media outlets. Since different media platform have different presumption of their readership, they report this incident with different names such as “Fishball Revolution”, “Mong Kong unrest” and “Mong Kong clash”. This article will focus on how different political journalisms evaluate the same social event differently and how they persuade their readers to believe what they construe.


This article will focus on the analysis and comparison of two contrasting English editorial. The first article is “Mong Kok unrest another wake-up call for Leung” by Shing-cheong Chung in the EJ insight on 24 February 2016, which its readerships are mostly the middle class people and intellectual. They assume that readers would have neutral stance toward the incident. The article is mainly a combination of evaluations and casual arguments. The second article from David Wong in China Daily on 22February 2016 is “Excuses for HK riot defy common sense” which involves more of evaluations and recommendations. China Daily’s readerships are mostly people from middle class and probably pro-China. They assume that the readers would mostly agree with the article’s stances of condemning the protesters in Mong Kok civil unrest.


The tittle, “Mong Kok unrest another wake-up call for Leung”, does not explicitly state the author’s stance. However, the using of ‘unrest’ to describe the incident reveals that the author does not hold a strong negative attitude to the incident. “Another wake-up call for Leung(The Chief Executive of Hong Kong)” reveals that the author thinks this incident could remind Leung of his deficiency. In the beginning of the article, Chung starts with a negative and disappointing tone using the word ‘despite’ and ‘insisted that there is no need’ to present his disappointment to Leung refusing call for an independent inquiry for such a serious social unrest. As the government has classified the incident as ‘riot’, it is also widely covered by many media platforms negatively. However, Chung’s article discusses the unrest with the angle focusing on the causes of this incident and how the incident reflects the complacency of the Hong Kong government and conflictual society.
Despite widespread calls for an independent inquiry into the underlying causes of the Mong Kok clashes, the Leung Chun-ying administration has insisted that there is no need for such a move.”



This article is a combination of casual claim and lots of evaluations. The second paragraph evaluates that the government’s actions after unrest. Chung uses some negative and emotive words such as ‘nosensical’ and ‘ridiculous’ to evaluate the government. However, the major claim of this paragraph is that the government’s complacency and total ignorance of the conflitual society are reflected but lack of justifications. The word ‘most alarming’ brings out the main idea of this article. Chungs tries to divert readers’ attentions from focusing on the violent actions as government presents. The word ‘mindset behind’ also leads readers to think more. He brings out that the unrest did not occur for no reason and those participants were not just simply ‘thugs’.


However, what is most alarming to me is not the nonsensical and ridiculous arguments that officials have presented, but the mindset behind it and what that tells us — the government’s complacency and total ignorance of the fact that public grievances and discontent in our society have already reached the tipping point and that an even more severe crisis could be in the making.”



Let’s see the primary claim of “Mong Kok unrest another wake-up call for Leung” first. It is a casual argument and it claims that the government refusing to open an inquiry for Mong Kog clashes shows that Leung’s government is complacent. Chung justifies that because the government has oversimplified the cause of the violence and it has categorically denied any connection between the clashes and the regime’s governance record.


“Such oversimplification of what happened that night and the simple-mindedness among our top officials could prove lethal in the end, for they fail to explain why basically the same bunch of young people who hadn’t thrown a single stone or set fire to anything during the Occupy Movement back in 2014 suddenly turned into violent and ruthless “rioters” this month.”



The other casual claim is that Mong Kok unrest is an alarm for Hong Kong. It is justified that because the same group of peaceful young protesters in Occupy Movement in 2014 have now become very radical and the government still oversimplifies the incident. The justification appeals to negative consequence. This argument shows to obvious warrant: there are lots of deep-rooted social problems making peaceful protesters become very angry and radical and simplifying the incident could bring serious consequence.


To make the argument more persuasive, the author also adds a paragraph as counter argument. It starts with blaming the protesters. He uses the words ‘violence’ and ‘was just another riot’ and describes the protesters as ‘some anti-social thugs’. He also mentions ‘there are no underlying social causes behind it’. However, at the end of this paragraph, he adds that it is just what the government thinks to tell readers that it is government’s views on the incident.


“The violence on the night of Feb. 8 was just another riot mounted by some anti-social thugs to pick a fight with the police and cause trouble, and there are no underlying social causes behind it whatsoever, the government thinks. All that needs to be done is to catch the criminals and put them behind bars, it feels.”



Chung also adds an evaluative rebuttal after the above counter argument. Referring to government’s views as what mentioned above, the government thinks the protests on the night of Feb 8 are ‘only’ ‘thugs’. Therefore, Chung evaluates that government’s views are ‘such a oversimplification’ and says that the simple-mindness of the Hong Kong top officials could cause a bad consequence. He has a rebuttal paragraph of the counter argument, however, lack of justification. He does not justify enough of why and how would the actions of Leung’s government causing bad consequences.


The article ends with evaluation statements with justification appeals to negative consequence. It claims that the chief executive’s action after the incident will only reinforce the worries and justifies that because the Leung’s government is completely ignoring the deep-rooted conflicts.


“The chief executive’s handling of the Mong Kok clashes will only reinforce the worries that his administration is completely ignoring the deep-rooted conflicts in our society.”



Wong starts the article with emotive language and a very negative tone. He uses the emotive words like “illusion”, “shattered” and “riot” which shows his strong stance of opposing the Mong Kong unrest and his denial attitude to peaceful image of Umbrella Revolution. This justification appeals to popular opinion.


“The illusion of a peaceful “Occupy” movement was shattered by the Mongkok riot recently. Many in Hong Kong were always strongly opposed to the “Occupy” movement for fears that it would not be peaceful.”



He justifies more about the reason he has this stance in the following paragraph. Wong uses many emotive and negative words to support this view believing “civil disobedience” is an excuse of protest in 2014 and Mong Kok riot is radical precedent that more radical protest would happen with using of the words like “pretext” and “pretense”. However, this operates evaluative presumption, a form of informal fallacy. The author assumes that the negative attitude toward the radical event with the pretext of “civil disobedience” will be necessarily applied without enough and logical justifications.


“Even if some of the occupiers genuinely intended to stage a peaceful protest, once a precedent is set for legitimatizing illegal and even criminal activities on the pretext of “civil disobedience” some people will further twist and distort this flawed logic. In the end, some of the participants will become radicalized and use the pretense of “civil disobedience” to mask the true violent nature of their actions.”



The primary claim of this article is the explanation of the support to the Mong Kok riot defies common sense. Wong justifies the reasons with three paragraphs. It shows his efforts in persuading the readers to believe the Mong Kong unrest is ridiculous. He says that the supporters keep trying to blame the police for riots is ridiculous.
“First, they tried to portray the incident where a police officer fired warning shots to protect his injured colleague lying on the ground from continued attacks by the mob as the only thing which happened that night. Ridiculous as this sounds; some people keep trying to blame the police for the riot.


Second, law enforcement actions against illegal hawkers have been turned into an excuse for the riot. There was even a cartoon depicting people wanting to eat fish balls but ending up having a police gun pointing at them.


Third, Western media started labeling the riot a “fish ball revolution” within hours. This was in an attempt to glorify it.”

Wong tries very to persuade readers opposing the riot. In one of this argument, he claims that everyone who loves Hong Kong should condemn the violence and work hard to help our community regain a sense of solidarity. He justifies that because residents in the special administrative region have been further polarized by the riot and the economy has suffered, which the justification appeals to negative consequences. The warrant of it is that the riot has adversely influenced Hong Kong. His using of the word “should” reveals that it is a type of recommendation argument.


“Residents in the special administrative region have been further polarized by the riot. And the economy, especially the tourism industry, has surely suffered another blow. Everyone who loves Hong Kong should condemn the violence and work hard to help our community regain a sense of solidarity.”

He ends the article with another evaluation. Wong claims that the thugs will operate riot again. He also justifies that because breaking the law often has few serious consequences and they could have a chance to become famous. This justification appeals to negative consequences and precedent. The warrant is that light penalty is not enough to deter people breaking law.


“The penalties handed out simply lacked any power to deter. From the point of view of these thugs, breaking the law often has few serious consequences. It provides them with an opportunity to become famous. So why not do so again?”



In Wong’s article, lots of negative and emotive terms are used to persuade people condemning the riot. Even the tittle shows his clear stances with the words such as “excuses”.


Compare the two article, Chung does not explicitly states his stance. However, blaming the government’s actions and downplays the violence reflects Chung’s stance of support the protesters. Wong does explicitly shows his stance by describing the incident with many negative and emotive words and use the term ‘riot’ to describe the incident. Both articles use many evaluative claims. Ching’s article focuses more on evaluating the consequence of the unrest and lack of the government’s action after the unrest. Wong’s article focuses more on evaluating the bad behaviour of the “rioters”. Chung’s article is relatively more objective with using less negative words. Wong’s article is relatively subjective with using many emotive words in the whole article but he is also more persuasive because his has more justifications in the article.