The National Basketball Association Houston Rockets franchise was forced to declare itself “non-political” on Sunday after the club’s general manager, Daryl Morey, posted a statement supporting pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong earlier, as The Inquisitr reported. Morey’s tweet produced an immediate reaction from the Chinese government and Chinese Basketball Association, condemning Morey and saying that they would sever business ties with the Rockets.
The livestreaming service that carries NBA games even declared that it would no longer stream Rockets games. The sudden reaction provoked Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta to take to Twitter himself, to declare his franchise “NOT a political organization.”
But the NBA has nonetheless placed itself in the middle of one of China’s most brutal political situations, according to a report published last year by Slate.com.
According to the report, since 2016, the NBA has operated one of its international “training academies” in the heart of Xinjiang province — a region most American companies have scrupulously avoided because Xinjiang is also the center of Chinese government human rights violations against the ethnic Muslim Uighur population that lives there.
According to a BBC report, the Chinese government has imprisoned about one million Uighur people — roughly 10 percent of the Uighur population in Xinjiang — in what the government calls “counter-extremism centers,” but what activists say are actually massive internment camps where Uighur prisoners are forced to swear allegiance to the Chinese government.
“I hate to say this, but if you’re a foreign company in China, you’re making political choices,” wrote Washington Post columnist Isaac Stone Fish on his Twitter account.
In addition to the internet camps, which have appeared on satellite imagery even though the Chinese government denies their existence, Xinjiang itself has become “ground zero for a repressive revolution into a total control state,” according to Fish, who also authored the Slate.com report on the NBA “academy” in Xinjiang.
Even ordinary shoppers in the region are subject to facial recognition technology which the government says allows it to identify “terrorists.” Residents who own smartphones are required to install an app that alerts authorities to any “dangerous” material on their phones. The Uighur Muslim women are prohibited from wearing their religiously required veils, while men are restricted from growing “abnormal” beards.
A United Nations human rights official, according to Fish, has described the region as a “sort of ‘no rights zone.'”
“The NBA should no longer engage with Xinjiang,” Fish wrote, acknowledging that the move may cost the NBA some Chinese fans. “The alternative is to continue to help China whitewash a network of concentration camps.”