Enes Kanter Prods Beijing: ‘Taiwan Is Not a Part of China and Never Will Be!’

Boston Celtics NBA player Enes Kanter posted this photo of his pro-Taiwan shoes on Twitter, November 10, 2021. (@EnesKanter/Twitter) INSERT: Enes Kanter #11 of the Boston Celtics handles the ball against the Portland Trail Blazers at The Arena at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 02, 2020 in …
@EnesKanter/Twitter, Insert: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter continued his campaign against the Communist Party of China on Wednesday, debuting sneakers emblazoned with the flag of Taiwan and asserting, “Taiwan will never surrender to the EVIL Chinese Communist Party.”

The shoes, which he will presumably wear on Wednesday night against the Toronto Raptors, also include the phrases “Taiwan belongs to the Taiwanese people” and the Chinese characters for democracy and independence.

Taiwan is a free, democratic island state south of China. While most Taiwanese are ethnically Han – the same as the majority of Chinese people – the nation has never been governed by a government based in Beijing and has never been part of the communist People’s Republic of China. Despite this, the Communist Party considers Taiwan a “province” and refuses to recognize its legitimate government. Party officials regularly threaten to invade and colonize it.

“Anyone who attempts to split any region from China will perish, with their bodies smashed and bones ground to powder,” Xi Jinping warned in 2019, referring to both Taiwanese citizens and the people of Hong Kong, who that year took the streets by the millions to object to Chinese intrusion in their city.

America does not recognize Taiwan’s statehood as doing so, under Beijing’s “One China” policy, would result in the dissolution of all diplomatic ties with communist China.

“Taiwan is NOT a part of China and NEVER will be!” Kanter wrote in a post on Twitter featuring photos of the shoes.

The sneakers are the latest in a series denouncing a wide variety of human rights abuses committed by the Chinese Communist Party, arguably the world’s most prolific human rights abuser. Kanter, a Turkish national with a long history of speaking out against Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, began the campaign in October with a statement denouncing widespread human rights abuses in occupied Tibet and referring to dictator Xi Jinping as a “brutal dictator.” Kanter also posted an accompanying video accusing the Communist Party of “cultural genocide” in Tibet in response to the regime’s campaign to erase the Tibetan language, Tibetan Buddhism, and all traces of the local culture. Human rights advocates accused China of imprisoning half a million Tibetans in concentration camps last year.

Kanter has also spoken out against the far larger concentration camp system in East Turkestan, another occupied region China refers to as Xinjiang. A Reuters report published in 2018 found as many as 1,200 concentration camps in East Turkestan; the U.S. government estimates that, at their peak, the camps housed as many as 3 million people. China has used the camps to imprison and erase people belonging to the local Uyghur ethnic group as well as other majority-Muslim groups like Kazakhs and Kyrgyz people.

Kanter’s defense of the Uyghurs, also a Turkic people, included a condemnation of Muslim leaders who have remained silent in the face of what both the administrations of Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden have deemed a genocide. Kanter himself is Muslim.

“It is so disappointing that the governments and leaders of Muslim majority countries are staying silent while my Muslim brothers and sisters are getting killed, raped, and tortured,” Kanter said in a video published in late October. “I’m talking about you: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Saudi King Salman, United Arab Emirates’ [Crown Prince] Mohammed Bin Zayed, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.”

“It is shameful and sad how you have decided to prioritize money and business with China over human rights. You call yourself Muslims, but you are just using that for show – you simply do not care about people,” he concluded.

More recently, Kanter attended a protest in support of congressional action against Chinese human rights abuses in Washington, DC. His post on Twitter about the rally was the first to mention Taiwan. It also mentioned his support for the anti-communist movement in Hong Kong, which he also honored with custom-designed sneakers on the court.

Kanter’s strident anti-China stance differs significantly from the rest of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The league itself makes billions of dollars in China and maintains operations in the country under the eyes of the Communist Party. Many NBA players have sponsorship deals with Chinese companies and American companies with ties to the NBA, most prominently Nike, do significant business in the country. Among his various statements against the regime, Kanter recently invited the head of Nike to tour Uyghur concentration camps with him.

Both the NBA and the Chinese Communist Party have mostly ignored Kanter, a far cry from the outsized negative reaction Beijing had to former Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey offering support to Hong Kong in 2019. Chinese streamer Tencent has blacklisted the Celtics in response to Kanter’s campaign, making it impossible for Chinese citizens to legally view his games (the Philadelphia 76ers, where Morey is currently employed, are also banned from Tencent streaming). The Chinese government, however, has not spoken about Kanter since his first statements about Tibet.

Celtics official Brad Stevens, who previously coached Kanter, offered a statement of support following his first declaration against China, but his team has almost entirely abstained from talking about it. Nike has also declined to acknowledge Kanter’s invitation to visit a concentration camp.

Celtics coach Ime Udoka has kept Kanter almost entirely off the basketball court since he began using his shoes for anti-communist expression. Kanter has played ten minutes on the court all season and has not played at all in November.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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