Who knew? Mayor Mike likes China

Mayor Mike

Michael Bloomberg is not only the former mayor of New York City and a recently announced candidate for president of the United States; he is also the richest person in New York State and the fourteenth richest person on earth. This wealth, however, has not prevented him from praising Communist China. To be sure, Bloomberg refuses to admit that China is, in fact, Communist. Well, yes, he acknowledged that it’s run by something called the Communist Party, but, in a September 27 interview with PBS, he was quick to add that the Party “wants to stay in power in China, and they listen to the public. When the public says I can’t breathe the air, Xi Jinping is not a dictator; he has to satisfy his constituents or he’s not going to survive.”

Beijing

Politically correct though PBS may be, Bloomberg’s interviewer, Margaret Hoover, was, to her credit, so taken aback by Bloomberg’s claim that she actually responded by saying, with obvious astonishment: “He’s not a dictator?” “No,” replied Bloomberg. “He has a constituency to answer to.” Hoover, admirably, wasn’t buying this fantasy: “He doesn’t have a vote. He doesn’t have a democracy. He’s not held accountable by voters.”

Bloomberg went on to defend China’s environmental policies. Note that we’re speaking of a country that is such a serious polluter that a large percentage of its people walk the streets wearing masks to prevent them from inhaling deadly particles.

Beijing at street level

Is Bloomberg dumb? Of course not. You don’t get to be a billionaire by being an idiot. The fact is that few Americans who are as rich as he is don’t have financial interests in China. While the billionaire currently in the White House feels he owes it to the American people to take on the hefty Chinese tariffs that have contributed to that country’s swift economic growth and to the destruction of much of the American manufacturing sector, other U.S. billionaires, such as Bloomberg, prefer not to rock the boat and thereby protect their own financial interests at the expense of American factory workers. As New York magazine noted when reporting on Bloomberg’s remarks earlier this month, “The billionaire has vast financial interests in China, and those interests have allegedly compromised his civic-minded endeavors in the past. In 2013, the New York Times reported that Bloomberg News had killed an investigation that had threatened to upset Chinese officials.

Xi Jinping

As Kim Hirsch asked on December 3 at the Victory Girls Blog, “What is it about billionaires when dollar signs mean more to them than oppression of other humans? Or even the security of their own nation?” Hirsch noted that China has not only “organized mass detentions of Uighur Muslims in the western Xinjiang province” but that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), in November, “exposed China’s operating manuals that use data analysis to select whom they will detain. Not criminal activity. Just algorithms. As a result, people randomly disappear.” Hirsch quoted an Australian analyst who explained: “That’s how state terror works. Part of the fear that this instills is that you don’t know when you’re not OK.” But what should any of this matter to the fourteenth richest person on earth, who, as Hirsch reported, is “financing Chinese companies through US investor dollars he sends to the Chinese bond market.”

Trump

It’s funny how these things work. Bloomberg is 77 years old, and has $54 billion in assets. You might think that at this stage of his life, he’d figure he had enough money and, like Trump (who has lost billions in net worth since he became president), decide to give back. Well, Bloomberg seems to be the poster boy for the fact that some people, no matter how rich, just aren’t interested in giving back. Trump, whatever you think of him, is at least a regulation-cutter driven by a core belief in individual freedom: Bloomberg, famous for banning large sodas while mayor of New York, is a control freak, a man who craves power, and a man whose love of power and control are palpably driven by a desire to ensure that his bank balance keeps rising until he meets his maker – to whom, if that event actually takes place, he will have to explain his readiness to whitewash Chinese Communism, sell out American labor, and pick up more money than one man could ever spend in a hundred lifetimes.

The making of loyal Chinese Communists – at Morningside Heights

Joshua Wang and Brian Leung at Columbia

We’ve been writing a great deal lately here about the pro-Beijing stooges who have come out of the woodwork in recent weeks, standing up for totalitarianism and smearing the freedom marchers in Hong Kong because doing otherwise might adversely affect their income. Several of these defenders of Chinese Communism have been people connected to the NBA, who make a lot of money, one way or another, on the popularity of American basketball in the world’s largest dictatorship. But it’s not just sports people who are on the Chinese government’s payroll. As we saw last week, the bigwigs at New York University, which has a branch in Shanghai, have stayed silent about the Hong Kong protests. Then there’s that equally cash-crazy institution a few miles north, Columbia University, where, as Richard Bernstein reported in October, a presentation the previous month by two democracy activists from Hong Kong, Brian Leung and Joshua Wong, was disrupted by a group of foreign students. Students, of course, from China. Standing up at their seats, they belted out the Chinese national anthem and another patriotic ditty, “Song of the Motherland.” As Bernstein observed, the incident was rich in irony: “Here were Chinese students, living and studying in the West, exercising the freedom to raise a ruckus at an academic conference and implicitly to denounce the pro-democracy yearnings of their Hong Kong counterparts.”

Chinese grads at Columbia University

Bernstein proceeded to make some exceedingly canny points. This episode, he observed, reflected the “general readiness of many Chinese people, at home and abroad, to express their outrage against what their government deems to be ‘anti-China’ opinions in other countries.” In turn, Bernstein pointed out, this readiness was illustrative of “a broad generational cultural shift in China, mostly unexpected and little noticed in the West.” Three decades ago this year, after all, Chinese people turned out in massive numbers to protest the system under which they lived. The Soviet Union was crumbling, the Berlin Wall was about to fall, and in China, too, millions of subjects of totalitarianism, students especially, were aching for liberty. “Occupying Tiananmen Square for two months,” recalls Bernstein, “they held hunger strikes, displaying a statue they called the Goddess of Liberty, before hundreds of them gave their lives when the army opened fire.”

The now-iconic image of the unknown Tienanmen Square protester standing up to tanks, June 5, 1989

But that was then and this is now. In 2019, writes Bernstein, the younger generation of Chinese citizens are the ideological opposites of their 1989 counterparts. In China today, sending your kid to study at an American university is one of the most prized objectives; but this ambition, in most cases, has nothing to do with a regard for American freedom. For both the parents and the children, it’s about prestige, the potential economic value of an Ivy League diploma, and having the opportunity to see the world. But seeing America doesn’t seem to have turned many of the Chinese students at U.S. universities into critics of Beijing’s tyranny or fans of Western liberty. Hence, writes Bernstein, “[i]nstead of educating a new generation of leaders who might make China more liberal, U.S. schools may be training an oppositional cadre more interested in acquiring American know-how than American values.” Moreover, “[t]his is occurring against a larger backdrop in which a resurgent China aggressively trumpets its cultural norms, demanding that foreign businesses – from Google to the NBA – play by its rules.”

Echo Wang

Yes, some of the 300,000 Chinese nationals who are currently studying at U.S. colleges may harbor a secret fondness for Western values – but they don’t dare say so. Yet close observers suggest that there are relatively few closet fans of America in this immense cohort. “I think that even compared to 10 years ago, the whole vibe among Chinese students has changed,” Echo Wang, a recent graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism, told Bernstein, adding that she’s heard from several sources that the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the 2008 Western financial crisis boosted a lot of these students’ enthusiasm for their own country’s political system and severely weakened whatever admiration they might have had for capitalism.

Thumbs up for Tarantino; thumbs down for Chan

As we’ve observed over and over again in recent weeks at this site, the current conflicts over the pro-liberty protesters in Hong Kong – and over the growing arrogance of China generally in its relations with the free world – have separated the sheep from the goats. Here are a couple of stories we haven’t covered yet.

Quentin Tarantino

To begin with, there’s Quentin Tarantino. We’ve criticized the brilliant, eccentric writer-director on this site, but it’s important to give credit where credit is due. His new Brad Pitt-Leonardo di Caprio vehicle, Once upon a Time in Hollywood, has been generating even more buzz than his pictures usually do, and looks like it has a fair chance to pick up a few statuettes at Oscar time. But there’s been one problem: the bigwigs in China, a top market for Hollywood films these days, insisted that he make certain cuts before they would allow the movie to be released there. To be sure, when Beijing objected to scenes of violence and nudity in one of his previous works, Django Unchained, he did agree to clip out a few of the scenes that bothered them. But this time Tarantino – who has rights to final cut – responded to their demands with a firm no.

Michael Chan

Then there’s Canadian politician Michael Chan, a former minister of immigration and international trade in the government of Ontario who now sits on the board of governors of Seneca College. He’s come out firmly against the Hong Kong protest, echoing Beijing’s spurious claims that they’re the work of dark “foreign forces” that are interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs and out to make trouble for China. “I have been thinking, why are these young people so radical, so passionate [and] committed to do these things? And why so many people?” Chan said. “If there is no deeply hidden organization in this, or deeply hidden push from the outside, there is no way that such large-scale turmoil would happen in Hong Kong in a few months.”

Chan’s career history is far from irrelevant here. When he was in government, according to the Globe and Mail, Canadian intelligence was seriously concerned about the closeness of his relationship with Chinese consular officials in Toronto and privately warned higher-ups about Chan’s “conduct and the risk of foreign influence.” The Globe and Mail quoted Gloria Fung, president of a group called Canada-Hong Kong Link, as saying that Chan is clearly “not using Canadian values nor the universal values of Western democracies in making all these comments. Rather, he abides by the values of the Chinese Communist Party.”

NYU, PRC, and $$$

NYU Shanghai

In August 2015, we wrote here about several major U.S. universities that have established lucrative branches in less than free countries – such as the United Arab Emirates and other lands awash in petrodollars – and that, in order to be able to operate in those countries, have felt compelled, by their sheer pecuniary interests, to make major compromises when it comes to living up to the idea of a free university.

As we noted, a number of these institutions have branches in China. And that’s not all: there are universities in the U.S. that contain so-called “Confucius Institutes,” centers for the study of China that are essentially sources of propaganda for Communist China.

Che Guangcheng

These cozy relationships between major American universities and the People’s Republic of China have many ramifications for the education of students at those universities. Colleges that play host to “Confucius Institutes” are forbidden by contract from recognizing Taiwan as an independent nation. They are under pressure not to arrange lectures or debates involving China scholars who don’t toe the Beijing line. The agreements with China also prohibit those American universities from sponsoring honest discussions of Tibet or the Tienanmen Square massacre. China scholars at U.S. institutions that have these sorts of links to the PRC dare not criticize China in the classroom or in their writings because they may find their Chinese visas revoked, which, of course, would make it impossible for them to pursue their scholarship. As we noted in 2015, one Chinese dissident, Chen Guangcheng, who had been tortured in China and who went on to have a fellowship at NYU had suddenly, in 2013, found that fellowship cancelled because the honchos at NYU were afraid of offending the Chinese leaders who had ordered his torture.

Jon Levine

On October 19, Jon Levine wrote in the New York Post about the NYU branch in Shanghai, where the fall term had begun but where “one subject that won’t be on the syllabus is pro-democracy protests sweeping Hong Kong.” Levine explained that “NYU faculty in China and New York say the issue is a third rail” and quoted an NYU-Shanghai faculty member as saying that “Everyone is under a bit of a cloud of fear…..We don’t walk around trembling like rodents, but there is a general idea that there are certain topics you don’t discuss….We all learn over time how to self-censor.” Levine noted that young people enrolled at this campus, who receive NYU degrees at the end of their period of study, are “required to take classes like ‘Mao Zedong Thought,’ ‘Introduction to the Communist Party of China’ and courses in political education routinely mandated at other Chinese universities.” This is disgusting, but none of it should be surprising to anyone who is aware that NYU, founded in 1831 and once a revered center of liberal learning and a source of American pride, has long since gotten into the habit of accepting cash from the biggest bidder, however odious.

Inside a Chinese “reeducation camp”

On Tuesday we wrote here about a Venezuelan, Christian K. Caruzo, whose account of his own life in the hell that is Venezuela under chavismo appeared recently at the Breitbart website. Today we’re here to draw attention to a piece in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in which reporter David Stavrou recounts the experiences of a woman named Sayragful Sauytbay in a Chinese reeducation camp. Sauytbay, an Uyghur Muslim teacher who was granted asylum in Sweden, where she now lives, recalled a place where the inmates spent their days and nights in shackles, using a plastic bucket for a toilet, were forced to confess fake sins and memorize “propaganda songs,” were subjected to electric shocks and other forms of torture, were the victims of gang rapes, and were given pills and injections as part of the kind of medical experiments that the infamous Dr. Mengele carried out in the death camps.

Knowing that the Chinese authorities were cracking down on Uyghur Muslims, Sauytbay’s husband and kids managed to flee China for their native Kazakhstan. But she didn’t. In 2016, as part of a broad round-up, some government thugs “came to my house at night, put a black sack on my head and brought me to a place that looked like a jail. I was interrogated by police officers, who wanted to know where my husband and children were, and why they had gone to Kazakhstan. At the end of the interrogation I was ordered to tell my husband to come home, and I was forbidden to talk about the interrogation.” She disobeyed the order, breaking off contact with her husband and kids. The result were further late-night raids and brutal interrogations. Finally, in November 2017, she was shuttled off to the reeducation camp, where she was given the job of teaching the Chinese language to Uyghur and Kazakh speakers. A big part of the curriculum consisted of propaganda songs and slogans, including “I love China” and “I love Xi Jinping.” Well, as John Lennon put it, all you need is love. Sometimes, let’s face it, the distance between Lennon and Lenin isn’t all that far.

Sauytbay recalled one incident from this adventure in love:

One day, the police told us they were going to check to see whether our reeducation was succeeding, whether we were developing properly. They took 200 inmates outside, men and women, and told one of the women to confess her sins. She stood before us and declared that she had been a bad person, but now that she had learned Chinese she had become a better person. When she was done speaking, the policemen ordered her to disrobe and simply raped her one after the other, in front of everyone. While they were raping her they checked to see how we were reacting. People who turned their head or closed their eyes, and those who looked angry or shocked, were taken away and we never saw them again. It was awful. I will never forget the feeling of helplessness, of not being able to help her. After that happened, it was hard for me to sleep at night.

Take that, Charles Barkley. Look at yourself in the mirror, LeBron James.

China’s stooges

Our last few postings here at Useful Stooges may have led some readers to think we’re under the impression that only athletes, teams, sports leagues, and sports-related firms have been doing a yeoman’s job of defending the Communist Chinese regime. Let us reassure our readers that we labor under no such illusion. In fact it is no secret that some of the largest U.S. companies manufacture many of their products in Chinese sweatshops and/or make handsome profits on the Chinese market, and thus feel a strong compulsion to maintain friendly relations with the Chinese government – and consequently are not about to risk their income by standing up for the freedom fighters of Hong Kong.

Mike Parker

In connection with the bowing and scraping of sports figures to the Beijing regime, we’ve already mentioned Nike, the sneaker company, which pays millions in endorsement deals to some of the biggest names in the hoops game. In September, as Fox Business reported, Nike’s CEO, Mark Parker, made a pretty straightforward declaration: “Nike is a brand of China, for China.” As Fox noted, Nike’s revenue in China during the third quarter of this year was no less than $1.7 billion. No wonder, noted Fox Business, that “Nike has gone silent on the controversy surrounding the NBA and China.” In fact it did more than go silent: after Daryl Morey, GM of the Houston Rockets, sent out a tweet supporting the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, Nike “pulled its Houston Rockets merchandise from five stores in Beijing and Shanghai.” Mustn’t offend the sensitive feelings of Chairman Xi and his cohorts.

Tim Cook

Then there’s Apple. In an October 17 piece, Wired noted Apple CEO Tim Cook’s efforts to position his firm as “the Patron Saint of Privacy, the company willing to protect user data while others profit from it.” Yet whereas “Apple refused to help the FBI break into an iPhone that belonged to one of the alleged perpetrators of the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack,” it has been considerably more cooperative with Beijing, eliminating an app that was used by pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong and that came under criticism by People’s Daily, the official Chinese Communist Party newspaper. As we’ve previously noted, Apple obligingly made it impossible for Apple users in Hong Kong and Macao to access a Taiwan flag emoji. Also, in 2018, bigwigs at Apple ordered TV program developers in its employ “to avoid portraying China in a poor light.”

Richard Gere with the Dalai lama

Of course Apple is not alone in the last-named regard. China has become a lucrative market for American films. It finances a good many of them. It owns U.S. theater chains. Hollywood studios and producers are therefore exceedingly careful not only to scrub scripts clean of anything that might be offensive to the Chinese government, but to include pro-China propaganda. A recent article at the Heritage Foundation website quoted an observation by Stephen Colbert that in the disaster movie 2012, “humanity is saved because the Chinese government had the foresight to build life-saving arcs,” and that in Gravity, “Sandra Bullock survives by getting herself to the Chinese Space Station.” As Heritage’s Tim Doescher put it – chillingly – “Hollywood is relying more and more on the Chinese markets to make profits on movies. That means our films are being written with China in mind.” As a result, noted Heritage’s Mike Gonzalez, “we get shown a very benign view of China, in which China is a normal country, no different from Paris, or Britain, or Germany.” We also get a view of the world that omits what Gonzalez called “the three Ts”: “Tiananmen, Tibet, and Taiwan.” Also omitted is Richard Gere – who was a top Hollywood star until his outspoken support for Tibet got in the way. In short, when it comes to China, there’s a lot of useful stoogery going around – and as China’s financial, military, and cultural power increases, and as it buys up more and more shares of more and more Western firms, we can fully expect that stoogery to increase massively.

Cleveland’s favorite son is Beijing’s golden boy

Hong Kong protesters

The ongoing spectacle of rich American athletes and powerful sports organizations spitting on the democratic capitalist system that made possible their free and privileged lives – all the while giving succor to the prison wardens who govern Communist China – has been nothing less than chilling to observe. One can hardly stop wondering: are these people as cold-heartedly craven as they sound, gladly accepting the big payouts they get from Beijing because a whole lot of Chinese people happen to love American basketball while caring nothing at all for the armies of Chinese workers of China the profits from whose underpaid labor enables Xi & co. to buy their loyalty? Or are these U.S. sports stars just plain ignorant, possessed of some vague notion that the Chinese system is pretty much the same as America’s, or that the differences between them are just cosmetic distinctions that only a racist would focus upon?

Charles Barkley

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve written about hoop heroes like Charles Barkley who’ve rushed to stand by China. Now it’s time to turn to LeBron James, who has played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, and L.A. Lakers, and is considered by many observers to be the greatest basketball player ever. In response to one of the very few good guys in this story – namely, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who’d dared to express his solidarity with the freedom fighters of Hong Kong – James sneered that Morey “wasn’t educated” on the topic and should have kept silent. By way of explaining his remark, James told reporters that comments like Morey’s could harm some people “not only financially but physically, emotionally and spiritually.” A curious angle indeed, given that all Morey had done was to stand shoulder to shoulder with people who, by standing up for their liberty against a brutal totalitarian system, were risking their very lives. What seemed to concern James was that bringing up the harsh monstrous reality of the Chinese system could hurt the feelings of his NBA confreres while they’re on their way to the bank to cash their checks from China. It’s hardly irrelevant here that LeBron himself has an exceedingly profitable lifetime endorsement deal with Nike, many of whose sneakers are manufactured in Chinese sweatshops by slave laborers, some of them children.

“King James”

James even went on to complain, in one tweet, that Morey’s support for Hong Kong had caused the Lakers to have a “difficult week” during a recent China tour. Many of his Twitter followers pointed out that the demonstrators in Hong Kong and the Uighurs, a Muslim group over a million of whose members are at present religious prisoners in China, have also been having a “difficult week.” Indeed, ever since China went Communist seventy years ago this month, untold hundreds of millions of its people have led highly difficult lives, and tens of millions have been subjected, at the orders of Mao and his successors, to brutal and violent deaths for their deviations from official ideologies. James also had some choice words for those who cheer on the Hong Kong inhabitants’ fight for freedom of speech, and who have defended Morey by pointing to his freedom of speech: “Yes,” wrote James, “we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that too.” Let’s just close with that one — and try to imagine the mental operations that can lead an American to say such a thing in all seriousness.

Charles Barkley joins the China crew

Charles Barkley

Yet more celebrities have lined up to defend business deals with the world’s largest totalitarian state. One of them is Charles Barkley. On October 10, TMZ reported that in the view of Barkley – the former power forward for the 76ers, Suns, and Rockets, and currently a sports commentator – anyone who criticizes the NBA for its zero-tolerance policy toward criticism of China, which includes ejecting from games those who express support at an for the people in Hong Kong who are protesting Beijing’s attempt to crush their freedom, is an “idiot,” a “jackass,” a “fool.” Try to follow this logic, which Barkley served up on the Dan Patrick Show: “you guys have been killing Colin Kaepernick for the last X amount of years,” but now “you want to control what happens in a foreign country?”

Colin Kaepernick

Kaepernick, of course, is the mediocre football player who worships the memory of Che and Castro and who started the whole business of “taking a knee” during the National Anthem as a way of protesting the unjust killing of black persons by white cops. Never mind that when you take into account the size of the different population groups, white cops don’t kill any more blacks than they do whites. There is evidence, indeed, that white cops are more careful about pulling a gun on a black person than on a white for fear they’ll end up being branding racists all over the news media. Besides, what Kaepernick was disrespecting was the Star-Spangled Banner and hence, by extension, the U.S. – a free country in which he has been able to become a rich man on the basis of a set of modest athletic skills. As for Barkley’s claim that “you guys” – presumably the media? – had been “killing” Kaepernick for taking a knee, au contaire: whereas Kaepernick’s less-than-spectacular talent on the gridiron had kept him pretty obscure, once he began taking a knee he won praise from all the usual suspects, collecting awards from GQ, Sports Illustrated, the ACLU, the Puffin/Nation Institute, Amnesty International, and Harvard. Yes, a lot of disgruntled fans, understandably turned off by his ingratitude and lack of patriotism, stopped watching NFL games. That’s their right.

Abe Vigoda as Tessio in The Godfather: “Tell Michael it was just business.”

But how to compare Kaepernick’s self-aggrandizing demonstrations against America, for which he risked no official punishment whatsoever, with the Hong Kong protesters, who are literally risking their lives by standing up for freedom? Bradley’s excuse for NBA honchos who side with the tyrants of China against the people in Hong Kong whose very freedom is under threat was simple: “They have billions of dollars at stake,” he said. “It’s a business decision. I understand the NBA. The players and the owners both got billions of dollars at stake.” Ah yes, the famous old distinction that keeps cropping up in The Godfather: “It’s not personal, it’s business.” This is indeed how the Mafia operates, and it’s how the American creeps who get rich off of Chinese slave labor defend the indefensible.

Nike: selling shoes, selling Communism

Hong Kong protests, June 16, 2019

There is no more powerful beneficiary of the useful stoogery of various Americans than the increasingly powerful Xi regime in Communist China. As we’ve seen in recent days, while hundreds of thousands of brave people in Hong Kong are risking their lives in protests against Beijing’s growing effort to crush that city’s freedoms, shameless creeps in the NBA and at ESPN, aware that China pays big bucks to broadcast American basketball games, have variously condemned the Hong Kong protests, chosen to stay silent about them, or played moral-equivalency games, equating America’s failings with those of a totalitarian dictatorship that imprisons millions of its political enemies and religious minorities.

Steve Kerr

On October 11, Tucker Carlson devoted much of his hour-long Fox News evening program to the NBA apologists for China. The focus was largely on Steve Kerr, coach of the Golden State Warriors, who is apparently well known for the predictable PC opinions that he shares on Twitter and elsewhere. Kerr, noted Carlson, routinely acts as if his reflexive echoing of received elite opinions makes him some kind of fearless hero of the oppressed. But when asked at a recent presser what he thinks about China, which actually does oppress on the largest scale ever known to man, and which Carlson quite properly called “the largest police state in the history of the human race,” Kerr hedged. When first asked about China, Kerr dodged it; the second time around, however, he opted for a bit of moral equivalence, suggesting that America’s “record of human rights offenses” was comparable to China’s. Only a fool or a shameless liar could say such a thing. Guesting on the same episode of Carlson’s show, John Daniel Davidson of the Federalist pointed out that Kerr’s brother is a China scholar – so it’s not as if the coach is clueless about the true nature of the Beijing regime.

Mark Cuban

As Carlson put it, the NBA is “beholden to China.” The league has actually banned its own players from speaking about China while on tour in that country. Carlson also noted another dog that hasn’t barked: Mark Cuban, the billionaire who owns the Dallas Mavericks and who is famously outspoken, has stayed mum on the question of China.

Jason Whitlock

Carlson brought on a guest, radio host Jason Whitlock, who made a fascinating argument: the ultimate problem, he said, doesn’t lie with the NBA; it lies with Nike, the sneakers company whose products are cheaply manufactured in Chinese sweatshops by veritable slaves, worn and advertised by NBA stars who have lucrative promotional contracts with the shoe manufacturer, and sold at handsome prices around the world, with China, of course, being one of its largest markets, if not the largest. “Basketball exists to sell shoes,” charged Whitlock, who maintained further that “Nike is control of basketball.” Hence the refusal of everybody connected to Nike to breathe a negative word about totalitarian China.

More NBA toadying

Hong Kong protests, June 16

And on it goes. In recent posts we’ve contrasted the courage of Hong Kong protesters – who are putting their lives on the line to risk the growing encroachments on their freedoms by the government in Beijing – with the readiness of American individuals and firms that do business with China to sell out the idea of liberty for a buck.

Sam Wachs and his wife before being ejected from the arena

Since American sports are so big in the PRC, many of these latest stories of cravenness and cowardice have had to do with athletics. We’ve seen that the NBA and ESPN have both been lightning-quick to sacrifice any pretense of principle in order to avoid offending Xi’s tyrannical regime. Well, here’s more. On October 10, Reason magazine’s Eric Boehm reported that two different sports arenas in the U.S. had ejected fans protesting the Communist Chinese attempt to crush liberty in Hong Kong. On October 8, it happened at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center, where Sam Wachs and his wife, who had bought tickets to a preseason game between the Philadelphia 76ers and a visiting Chinese team, the Guangzhou Loong Lions, displayed small signs reading “Free Hong Kong.” Security guards were quick to give the Wachses the heave-ho.

Protesters in DC

The next night, the same Chinese team were in Washington, D.C., for another game, in this case against the Washington Wizards. This time there were several protesters. They wore t-shirts bearing slogans in support of the Hong Kong protesters and unfurled a “Free Hong Kong” banner. When the banner was confiscated, they waved a homemade sign reading “Google Uighurs,” a reference to the current internment by the Communist Chinese government of more than a million adherence of that Muslim minority. That effort, too, was quashed.

Adam Silver, NBA boss

As Boehm pointed out, the NBA’s aggressive treatment of what was frankly a small number of protesters at a couple of U.S. basketball game has only served to draw attention to China’s perfidy and to the NBA’s eagerness to do China’s bidding. On October 10, the New York Post ran an op-ed by one of the Washington protesters, Jon Schweppe, who explained that he and some friends had decided to stage a protest at the Washington game after reading about what happened to the Wachese in Philadelphia. The sight of NBA thugs “groveling to a totalitarian regime and censoring…fans” in Philadelphia, of all places, “home of the Constitutional Convention and the Liberty Bell,” had gotten his dander up. Would the NBA, he wondered, dare to treat supporters of freedom the same way in the nation’s capital?

That tiny Uighurs sign that was too much for the NBC bigwigs

The answer came quickly. When he and his pals unfurled their banner, they were told by NBA reps: “We respect your freedom of speech, but…we don’t have any stance on [Hong Kong]. So we’re just asking not to have any signage related to that in here tonight.” The little sign about the million-plus imprisoned Uighurs didn’t please the NBA bosses either. “My friend,” writes Schweppe, “pleaded that we were simply seeking to educate some of the NBA officials, coaches and players, many of whom had expressed ignorance about the issue. It was in vain: The supervisor still confiscated the sign and told us that if we continued to disrupt the game, we would be ejected.” Instead, Schweppe and his friends just chose to leave. Good for them for standing up for freedom. Shame on the NBA for putting its profits first.