A Chinese internet giant suspended its broadcasting of Boston Celtics games on Thursday following player Enes Kanter’s fiery comments on Twitter condemning the regime for perpetrating a “cultural genocide” in Tibet, which China is illegally occupying.
In a video posted to Twitter, Kanter slammed Chinese President Xi Jinping, who he labeled a “brutal dictator” who subjects the ethnic Tibetan people, most of whom practice Buddhism, to political and religious persecution as well as human rights atrocities such as torture and forced labor camp imprisonment.
“Under the Chinese government’s brutal rule, Tibetan people’s basic rights and freedoms are non existent. 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 evenly allowed to worship freely,” Kanter declared.
Like other American corporations dependent on the Chinese market and its 1.4 billion consumers, the NBA could see its business prospects jeopardized by Kanter’s pro-Tibet advocacy. Multinational companies such as Nike, which rely on the Chinese market to sustain their rapid growth, have largely ignored Beijing’s egregious human rights abuses in Tibet, Hong Kong, and Xinjiang, where much of the country’s oppressed Uighur Muslim minorities reside.
China invaded and annexed Tibet in the 1950s, believing the land to be its colonial property, although not without many decades of Tibetan resistance. To encourage uniformity across Chinese civic life, the regime has suppressed the Tibetan language and those who speak it, pushing for the dominance of Mandarin Chinese.
In the video, Kanter wore a T-shirt with Dalai Lama depicted on the front, a photo which is cause for arrest if found in a Tibetan’s possession, he claimed.
“The cultural genocide in Tibet is so stifling that more than 150 Tibetan people have burned themselves alive hoping that such a horrific act of sacrifice will raise awareness and attention toward the ongoing abuses within Tibet,” he added.
On Wednesday, Kanter made a post on Twitter with photos of painted sneakers that read “Free Tibet”, captioning it with: “I stand with my Tibetan brothers and sisters, and I support their calls for Freedom.”
In response to Kanter’s outcry, Chinese internet conglomerate Tencent prevented viewers from accessing recent as well as upcoming Celtic games to stream in the country.
On the Chinese social network Weibo, a Celtics fan account said it would abandon support for the team after Kanter repudiated the regime, writing “Resolutely resist any behavior that damages national harmony and the dignity of the motherland!,” the New York Times reported.