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Activists hold up a sign before an NBA exhibition basketball game between the Washington Wizards and the Guangzhou Loong-Lions on October 9, 2019, in Washington. Photo: AP

Hong Kong pro-democracy protests expected at Vancouver NBA pre-season game today

  • The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation say a local group is planning to ‘protest against human rights abuses of the Chinese government’ at the game
  • The Los Angeles Clippers will take on the Dallas Mavericks, tipping off at 10.30am Hong Kong time

A group of local Vancouverites are looking to test the National Basketball Association’s commitment to free speech on Friday morning (Hong Kong time) when the Los Angeles Clippers take on the Dallas Mavericks in a preseason game at Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver. The game will start at 10.30am Hong Kong time.

According to an article by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, a publicly funded news network, a group of people who support democracy in Hong Kong will stage a protest during the game. CBC spoke to the protest organiser, Lee Haber, who said the group’s goal is clear.

“We want to test the NBA: Do you really stand for freedom of speech?” Haber told the CBC.

NBA boss says China asked him to fire Houston Rockets’ Daryl Morey

The NBA finds itself embroiled in a scandal with the Chinese government that started more than a week ago when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for Hong Kong protesters. Morey quickly deleted the tweet, offered an apology and the NBA originally released a statement calling the tweet’s ramifications “regrettable”.
However NBA commissioner Adam Silver has since backed Morey’s right to freedom of expression as an employee of the league in two separate statements, which further angered the Chinese government as well as Chinese corporate sponsors of the NBA. The issue hit fever pitch last week when the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers were in Shanghai for a scheduled preseason game and various NBA activities.
The Chinese government cancelled a number of events and in turn the NBA shut down media access to its players, which extended to a game on Saturday in Shenzhen. Lakers superstar LeBron James further inflamed the row after returning home to the US when he called Morey’s initial tweet “uneducated”. James later clarified his position on Twitter and on Wednesday night Hong Kong protesters held a rally at Southorn Playground where they burned James’ various jerseys. James has also received significant backlash stateside for his stance as some have viewed his words as supporting the Chinese government because of his many business interests in the country.
Basketball fans burn a LeBron James jersey at Southern Playground in Wan Chai. Photo: Sam Tsang

A press release obtained by the South China Morning Post states the group is calling the event “We Will Not Be Silenced” and that the demonstrations are to support the people of Hong Kong.

It also said the group intends the demonstration to be “a litmus test to see whether the NBA really value free speech of their players and fans over the profits from access to the market controlled by the Chinese Communist State”.

In his first interview since returning to the US, Silver clarified his position on the whole issue and also said the Chinese government tried to pressure him into firing Morey.

With a tweet, NBA firestorm engulfs three decades of work in China

A media relations spokesperson for Canucks Sports and Entertainment, who will oversee the game at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, said they were aware of the planned protests and were in talks with the NBA on the issue.

Fans have been seen getting escorted out of multiple NBA preseason games, including Philadelphia and Washington, DC, after holding up signs in support of Hong Kong protesters.

Vancouver has been the site for multiple demonstrations, both pro-democracy supporters and Chinese backers, since the unrest started more than four months ago. This included a recent altercation at Richmond Mall where Chinese political refugee Yang Kuang was detained by Canadian police after getting into a physical clash with pro-China supporters. An estimated 215,000 Hong Kong-born people live in Canada according to 2016 Statistics Canada numbers.