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Hong Kong supporters rally as NBA comes to Vancouver

Last Updated Oct 17, 2019 at 9:35 pm PDT

(News 1130 Photo, Renee Bernard)
Summary

Basketball became an unlikely player in the conflict between Hong-Kong protesters and mainland China earlier this month

On Oct. 4 Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey shared his support of Hong Kong protesters on social media

Morey's tweet was deleted soon after it was posted, but there were repercussions for the league

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Pro Hong-Kong demonstrators rallied at Rogers Arena ahead of a pre-season NBA game Thursday.

One protester says she wants basketball fans to learn more about the Hong-Kong protests and to recognize that human rights and freedom of expression are at stake.

“The Hong Kong people, they are not just fighting for themselves, they are [at] the very very forefront [of the ] fight for democracy and freedom for all people,” says Thekla Lit.

Protests have been gripping Hong Kong for months. They began as a response to a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts in mainland China. The movement then ballooned to encompass broader pro-democracy demands. The protests have led to violent clashes between protesters and police, and thousands have been arrested.

Basketball became an unlikely player in the conflict between Hong-Kong protesters and mainland China earlier this month

On Oct. 4 Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey shared his support of Hong Kong protesters on social media. Morey tweeted an image that said: “Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver backed Morey’s right to express his opinion and said: “We are not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression.”

The Vancouver demonstrators say that Canadian basketball fans should stand with Hong Kong, and defend Morey’s right to support the protesters.

“Especially as Canadians should know about it and should stand up to support the values that we all treasure– that is freedom of expression and human rights,” Lit explains.

Morey’s tweet was deleted soon after it was posted, but there were repercussions.

Pre-season events in China promoting the Lakers-Nets games in Shenzhen and Shanghai were cancelled, the NBA’s Chinese media partner Tencent said it was evaluating its plans to cover the league, and China state broadcaster CCTV did not air either preseason game.

The tweet also caused some Chinese corporations to suspend relationships with the NBA.

“We are just here to remind people about this, to remind people exactly what happened. Especially when not all people understand the situation in Hong Kong,” Lit says.

The demonstrators were offering leaflets, holding up signs, and chanting at the entrance during the pre-season game between the LA Clippers and the Dallas Mavericks. One sign showed an unflattering picture of superstar Lebron James. James has suggested members of the NBA should be careful with what they support.

“This is a very, very alarming sign,” Lit says. “Living in a democratic and free society: How could it happened that freedom of speech [is] being suppressed by another country so far away?”

Meanwhile, a Toronto activist group is planning to use next week’s Raptors season opener to raise awareness of the ongoing situation in Hong Kong.

The Torontonian Hong-Kongers Action Group plans to hand out t-shirts with the slogan “The North Stand with Hong Kong” outside Scotiabank arena ahead of the Oct. 22 season opener against New Orleans.

With files from The Associated Press