Chinese Media on NBA Scandal: ‘The Hong Kong Riots Are Just Like 9/11’

394375 05: A worker wipes his brow in the wreckage of the World Trade Center September 13, 2001 in New York City, two days after the twin towers were destroyed by two hijacked passenger jets. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
Chris Hondros/Getty

China’s Global Times defended Chinese internet users allegedly acting independently of the government for praising the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as revenge for an NBA executive expressing support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey published the phrase “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” on Twitter this weekend, triggering an international crisis as the repressive Chinese Communist Party demanded the NBA immediately silence him and the NBA readily complied, issuing an effusive apology.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has attempted to mitigate the outrage in the United States from those alarmed by his league’s willingness to obey a rogue foreign state, saying Morey “is supported in terms of his ability to exercise his freedom of expression,” but not saying the NBA is the group that supports him. He later added that the NBA will suffer financial consequences from Morey’s remark, but “if those are the consequences of us adhering to our values, I still feel it’s very, very important to adhere to those values.”

Morey deleted his pro-Hong Kong statement and has not repeated his support for the anti-communist protests since receiving Silver’s backing. He is still receiving vitriolic tweets from alleged Chinese people – Twitter is banned in China and the company has caught the Communist Party using fabricated accounts to spread propaganda – celebrating the September 11 attacks. Similar remarks have allegedly surfaced throughout accounts on Sina Weibo, a Chinese government-controlled social media outlet.

The Global Times confirmed on Tuesday that these messages were real – not that the users behind them were actual Chinese citizens, but that the messages existed and were not doctored via screencaps – and justified them by proclaiming that the Hong Kong protest movement is as evil as the September 11 attacks.

“A few angry Chinese netizens said, ‘9/11 is a beautiful date for the US. After all, freedom of speech,'” the Global Times reported – not noting that Americans indeed have the freedom to praise the terrorist attacks without government retribution and that members of Congress have referred to them dismissively without going to prison. “This has been exaggerated by some US media and Twitter users to hype the tension between the NBA and China.”

“Chinese observers said these extreme comments are inappropriate and disrespectful, which the majority of Chinese people don’t agree with, but it should remind Western media that for Chinese people, the Hong Kong riots are just like the 9/11, which is horrible and can’t be justified,” the state-run newspaper claimed. “So when a few of them see a foreigner use ‘freedom of expression’ to justify the statement that seriously harmed their feelings, they decided to make disrespectful comments as well in the name of “freedom of expression.'”

The jihadist group al-Qaeda killed 2,977 people in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania after hijacking four airplanes and flying them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The fourth plane, the one falling in Pennsylvania, never arrived at its target because passengers subdued the jihadists. Hundreds of New York police officers and first responders have died of 9/11-related illnesses in the years since.

There have been no reported deaths in the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, launched in June. Hong Kong police, controlled by Beijing, have shot two protesters ages 18 and 14. Hong Kong police and armed pro-China mobs have injured dozens of protesters, prominently including a young woman blinded by a close-range bean bag round police shot into her face.

Despite its dismissive tone about the September 11 attacks, the Chinese Communist Party has used jihad as an excuse to force millions of Muslims into concentration camps where survivors say they have been subjected to torture, slavery, indoctrination, rape, forced sterilization, organ harvesting, and other abuses.

“Chinese netizens vowed to draw a clear line with the NBA after league Commissioner Adam Silver defended Morey, who showed solidarity with Hong Kong rioters in his tweet,” the Global Times claimed, without clarifying that “netizens” who disagree with Beijing face swift incarceration.

The newspaper concluded by comparing Morey to former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, expelled from the NBA for racist comments against black Americans.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry tacitly supported the online vitriol hurled at Morey and other Americans for supporting the protests in a statement Tuesday.

“The Chinese Basketball Association and the Chinese cooperation partners to the Houston Rockets made statements on this matter. I believe China’s position on it couldn’t be clearer,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said. “I also suggest you pay attention to the reaction of the ordinary Chinese people.”

The Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, which has remained largely peaceful and leaderless since arising in June, is making four demands of its government: freedom for political prisoners, direct election of lawmakers, an end to the government calling the protests “riots,” and an independent investigation into police brutality.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.


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