Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter has criticized through his social networks the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its leader Xi Jinping for the repression of the Tibetan people. The regime quickly retaliated and canceled television broadcasts, which could cause millions of dollars in losses for the NBA.
Kanter, star of the Boston Celtics, has been at the center of the controversy after spreading a video of almost three minutes duration through his social networks. He is seen issuing strong statements against the Chinese communist regime for its treatment and persecution of Tibetan religious people.
The video posted on his Twitter account features a message that reads, “Dear Brutal Dictator XI JINPING and the Chinese Government. Tibet belongs to the Tibetan people!”
Wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with an image of the Dalai Lama, Kanter told onlookers that he could no “longer “remain “silent” about the CCP’s political repression of Tibet and its ancient culture.
“People’s basic rights and freedoms are nonexistent. They are not allowed to study and learn their language and culture freely. They are not allowed to travel freely. They are not allowed to access information freely. The Tibetan people are not even allowed to worship “freely,” Kanter said among other accusations.
Shortly after the tweet was posted on Wednesday, Oct. 20, highlights of the Celtics’ game against the Knicks became unavailable on the Chinese-owned Tencent Sports app.
Upcoming Celtics games also do not appear to be available for live streaming, CNBC media reported.
As of Thursday morning, Weibo, China’s largest social media platform, banned users from searching for “Kanter” on its platform.
Kanter also posted similar messages on his Instagram account and on Wednesday wore shoes emblazoned with the phrase “Free Tibet” during the game against the New York Knicks. The drawing was done by Baidu Cao, a Chinese-born dissident cartoonist and caricaturist living in Australia.
Meanwhile, CCP Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a news conference on Thursday that Kanter was “trying to draw attention” and that his comments were “not worth refuting,” Reuters reported.
“We will never accept such attacks to discredit Tibet’s development and progress,” Wang added.
The NBA, the most popular U.S. sports league in China, has already faced backlash from the CCP in the past because some of its stars issued anti-China comments, and the consequences for the franchise were catastrophic.
Such was the case with the comments of then Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who explicitly supported Kong’s Kong’s democracy movement, raising the ire of the regime. This led state-owned CCTV to stop broadcasting NBA games.
Situation in Tibet
The CCP forcibly took political control of the Tibet region in 1951 after promising the Tibetan people the right to exercise their autonomy. Over the years, however, the regime has continued to tighten its grip on the local population, forcing monks and nuns to resume secular life and promoting Mandarin Chinese over the original language.
Many human rights organizations have been expressing deep concerns about the repression by the communist regime against various religious minorities in China, in addition to Tibetans, also highlighting the persecution of Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang area and members of the Falun Gong spiritual discipline.