Fans who attended a recent NBA game were subjected to watching a video message from a Chinese official amid allegations that some of the league’s players are benefiting from human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region.
On Jan. 25, the Washington Wizards hosted their annual Lunar New Year celebration – which they refer to as “Chinese New Year” – during a match with the Los Angeles Clippers. The event featured performances, activities and a special matchup animation. Prior to the start of the game, the U.S. national anthem was performed using the pipa, a traditional Chinese instrument.
The festivities also included a recorded message from the Chinese ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang, reported China Daily.
Qin congratulated the NBA on its 75th anniversary and praised the strong connection between the Chinese market and the league.
According to Qin, the Wizards and the Clippers are both “special to Chinese fans’ hearts” for taking in two Chinese basketball stars: Yi Jianlian (Wizards) and Wang Zhizhi (Clippers).
The message comes as the NBA faces heavy scrutiny for its silence on the alleged human rights violations in China. At least 17 current NBA players have been linked to Chinese brands accused of using slave labor, reported ESPN.
In recent months, Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter Freedom has been calling out his fellow NBA players for not speaking up against the alleged human rights issues in Xinjiang, as NextShark previously reported.
A bipartisan coalition in Congress has similarly highlighted NBA players who currently have working relationships with companies such as Li-Ning, Anta, Peak and 361 Degrees. The four listed Chinese companies are considered by the U.S. government and human rights groups as companies which involve forced labor in creating their products in Xinjiang.
China’s Washington embassy representative Liu Pengyu released a statement refuting the allegations: “The so-called ‘forced labor’ issue is a century-old lie invented by the U.S. and other western institutions and personnel to restrict and suppress relevant Chinese enterprises and contain China’s development.”