It may just be the beginning of this year’s NBA season, but China is already censoring games.
The communist country yanked replays and future Boston Celtics games from its planned TV programming in response to team center Enes Kanter, who took to Twitter on Wednesday to deliver a pro-Tibet speech and condemn Chinese President Xi Jinping as a “brutal dictator.”
“My message to the Chinese government is free Tibet,” said Kanter, who is Turkish. “Tibet belongs to Tibetans. I am here to add my voice and speak out about what is happening in Tibet. … Under the Chinese government’s brutal rule, Tibetan people’s basic rights and freedoms are nonexistent.”
The athlete went on to explain that Tibetans are “not allowed to study and learn their language and culture freely” because of China’s grip. He went on to state they are “not allowed to travel freely, they are not allowed to access information freely” and “are not even allowed to worship freely.”
“For more than 70 years,” he continued, “Tibetan monks, nuns, intellectuals, writers, poets, community leaders, actors, and many more have been detained, sent to political re-education classes, subject to torture … and even been executed simply for exercising their freedoms that you and I take for granted.”
Kanter held nothing back, accusing the “Chinese dictatorship or erasing Tibetan identity and culture,” describing the actions of the communist regime as “cultural genocide.”
The Celtics center referred to what Time magazine said in 2011 was the most “under-reported story of the year,” referencing the Tibetan Buddhists who burned themselves alive in China as a plea for freedom. The self-immolators were called “terrorists” by the Chinese government, according to The Atlantic.
“I say shame on the Chinese government,” Kanter said. “After learning all of this, I cannot stay silent. I stand with my Tibetan brothers and sisters, and I support their cause for freedom.”
“The communist ideology of China has been around for only around 100 years, but Buddhist civilization, ideology, and philosophy has been around for thousands of years,” the NBA player explained. “Only the Tibetan people should decide the future of Tibet. … Tibet belongs to Tibetan people.”
“Brutal dictator of China, Xi Jinping,” he added, “I have a message for you and your henchmen. I will say it again, again, and again, loud and clear. I hope you hear me: Free Tibet, free Tibet, free Tibet.”
Kanter stuck by his message during the Celtics’ game against the New York Knicks on Wednesday night, when he wore brightly colored shoes with the message “FREE TIBET” emblazoned on them.
China, which seized control of Tibet in 1951, responded to Kanter swiftly.
The country’s streaming service, Tencent, which has a partnership with the NBA, cut the live feed of Wednesday’s Celtics-Knicks game. And by Thursday, all future Celtics games were marked as no longer available to be stream, according to The New York Times.
Wang Wenbin, spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, said Kanter is “trying to get attention” and that his comments “were not worth refuting.”
Kanter, for his part, has also been outspoken in his condemnation of Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan. This week, in fact, the basketball player was slapped with his 10th arrest warrant for speaking out against the Turkish government’s record on human rights. The country has also revoked Kanter’s passport.
The NBA player, however, remains unmoved. He said he is “not giving up.”
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