China rules out NBA Celtics games against Tibet, Xi comments | News | DW


Broadcaster Tencent, a Chinese partner of the National Basketball Association (NBA), blocked access to all Boston Celtics games after one of the team’s players accused the Chinese government of “cultural genocide” in Tibet.

All Celtics games – current and archived, along with highlights – will no longer be accessible in China after Enes Kanter criticized the country’s policy towards Tibet in a series of social media posts, including a video two-minute film in which he was seen wearing a T-shirt with a picture of the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet.

“I am here to add my voice and talk about what is happening in Tibet. Under the brutal Chinese government rule, the basic rights and freedoms of the Tibetan people are non-existent,” Kanter said in the video released Wednesday. The message also included text describing Chinese President Xi Jinping as a “brutal dictator.”

Position “Free Tibet”

At Celtic’s season opener against the New York Knicks on Wednesday night, Kanter wore shoes emblazoned with the words “Free Tibet”. The game was noticeably absent from streaming services broadcast in China.

The shoes worn by Kanter against the Knicks

“Over 150 Tibetans have burned themselves alive !! – hoping that such an act would raise more awareness in Tibet. I stand alongside my Tibetan brothers and sisters and support their calls for freedom,” he wrote on Twitter after the Game.

China says Kanter is “just trying to get attention”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters on Thursday that Kanter was “trying to get attention.” He bristled at the criticism and said the player’s comments “are not worth refuting. We will never accept these attacks to discredit the development and progress of Tibet.”

While he has yet to comment on these recent developments, Kanter has a long history of speaking out on politics. Of Turkish nationality, he was very critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Ankara called him a member of a terrorist group – which the player denies – and Kanter said his passport was revoked by the Turkish government in 2017.

Chinese users slapped both the player and the Celtics on social media and his name appeared to be blocked on Tencent’s Weibo messaging platform after his criticism of Xi. Twitter is banned in China.

Beijing, which regards the Dalai Lama as a separatist, has ruled Tibet since the People’s Liberation Army entered and took control in 1951, during what China calls “peaceful liberation.”

NBA seeks to balance free speech with access to multi-billion dollar market

The tense situation is not the first of its kind and highlights the tightrope that the NBA has chosen to walk in an attempt to balance the free speech rights of its players and coaches with a willingness to stay good. terms with an authoritarian regime in Beijing as part of a multibillion-dollar broadcast deal.

The relationship’s biggest success came in October 2019, when Daryl Morey, then general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted his support for Hong Kongers protesting for democratic freedoms. China immediately cut the league, massive public advertisements for the games were cut, and sponsors started jumping ship.

The NBA estimates that the tweet alone cost them over $ 400 million (€ 344 million) during the 2019-20 season.

The outage eventually ended when NBA games returned to Tencent, but state broadcaster CCTV only broadcast two games after the incident. When Morey moved to work for the Philadelphia 76ers, Tencent pulled them from their broadcast schedule.

Speaking earlier this week, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said, “It is not known if we will return to CCTV television in China this year.”

Rights groups have consistently urged U.S. companies operating in China to stand up to Beijing. Currently, a number of them are calling on the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) to boycott the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics due to documented human rights violations against Tibetans, Hong Kongers and Uyghur Muslims.

UN letter criticizes Beijing for Uyghur abuse

The abuse of the latter group, the Uyghur Muslim minority, prompted 43 countries of the United Nations General Assembly’s Human Rights Committee to sign a letter of public condemnation on Thursday for Beijing’s activities in its western region. from Xinjiang.

“There are generalized and systematic violations of human rights, torture, forced sterilization, sexual violence and separation,” said the statement read by French Ambassador to the UN Nicolas De Rivière.

The signatories called on Beijing to allow United Nations observers unrestricted access to affected areas. Diplomats reported an attempt to coerce Beijing to try to prevent countries – especially poorer ones – from signing the document.

Human rights observers estimate that a million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Hui and other Muslim minorities are held in “concentration camps”. Beijing denies any wrongdoing, labeling those detained in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region as “separatists” and “terrorists” who are not being detained but are instead being “re-educated”.

Observers say “re-education camps” are used to force Uyghurs – often by brutal means – to align with the ruling Communist Party. Forced labor reports were rampant. Western companies doing business in Xinjiang, such as Volkswagen, said they had no knowledge of forced labor at their production facilities.

js / jsi (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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