The Chinese regime recently blocked the highlights of NBA team Boston Celtics’ game against New York Knicks from a streaming platform. The decision came after Celtics player Enes Kanter expressed his dissatisfaction with the Chinese Communist Party’s treatment of Tibetans, prompting Washington to raise concerns about the move by Beijing.
“The United States is deeply concerned by the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] actions against the National Basketball Association for statements one player made regarding Tibet… We value freedom of expression and support anyone who exercises that right,” a U.S. State Department spokesperson said in a statement.
In a video uploaded to his Twitter account on Oct. 20, Kanter called for freeing Tibet while terming Chinese leader Xi Jinping as a “brutal dictator.” He stated that China’s rule in Tibet is suppressing people’s basic rights and freedoms.
Tibetans are often barred from studying or learning their native language and culture, banned from accessing information, restricted from travel. The Tibetan Buddhist religion has suffered decades of violent persecution.
“For more than 70 years, Tibetan monks, nuns, intellectuals, writers … and many more have been detained, sent to political reeducation classes, subject to torture, lengthy interrogations, and even been executed simply for exercising the freedom that you and I take for granted,” Kanter said in the video. He added that almost 5,000 Tibetans have been held as political prisoners during the past 25 years.
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Saying that he could no longer “stay silent,” Kanter said that he stands with “my Tibetan brothers and sisters” in their fight for freedom. He stressed that only Tibetans have the right to decide the future of Tibet.
The NBA previously came under fire in 2019, when a coach tweeted a logo in support of the Hong Kong democracy protesters. That incident led to all of NBA’s games being temporarily removed from mainland Chinese television.
In another post, Kanter promoted sneakers featuring the words “Free Tibet” and Tibet’s national flag designed by Chinese-Australian dissident artist Badiucao.
“More than 150 Tibetan people have burned themselves alive!! — hoping that such an act would raise more awareness about Tibet. I stand with my Tibetan brothers and sisters, and I support their calls for Freedom,” Kanter said in a tweet.
Kanter has a long history of voicing against human rights violations. In his home country Turkey, Kanter had severely criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has been promoting a staunch Islamist view in the country. The Erdogan government is known to persecute an Islamist movement called Hizmet of which Kanter is a member. In 2017, the Turkish government revoked his passport.
When Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin was asked about Kanter’s Tibet remarks at a press briefing, he replied that “the player you mentioned was clout-chasing, trying to get attention with Tibet-related issues. His wrong remarks are not worth refuting.” He said that China welcomes “unbiased friends” who view the Tibet issue with “objectivity.”
Wang insisted that Tibet has leaped from “poverty to prosperity” in the 70 years since its “peaceful liberation.” Tibet, an autonomous region in western China, has been controlled by the CCP since it was annexed in the 1950s. The regime sees Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, who currently lives in exile in India, as a separatist.
On Chinese social media platform Weibo, the most prominent page dedicated to the Celtics team said that it will stop posting any information on the team. The page has about 615,000 followers. “Any behavior that undermines the harmony of the nation and the dignity of the motherland, we resolutely resist,” said the page administrators.