The big news of the week in the NBA was Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey weighing in on the Hong Kong protests, making a statement in support of their right to freedom. While Morey was well intentioned in his statement/tweet, it set off a firestorm that the NBA wants no part of. To his credit, NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement saying he will support the right of all NBA employees to exercise their freedom of speech and that the league will live with those consequences. He didn't totally cave to China and say that Morey was wrong.
While I think Silver handled this as well as he could have, I think that overall, the NBA shouldn't weigh in on this particular issue. I've been studying Mandarin Chinese for the last couple of years and have grown to love Chinese culture. As part of my Chinese studies, I've spent some time learning about current events in China and the political layout of the entire region. I don't have time to get into all the layers of the Chinese geopolitical landscape, but let me just say in short that it's complicated.
Taiwan for example sees themselves as the ones holding down the fort for democracy in China as the Republic of China while Mainland China (known as the People's Republic of China) sees themselves as the one true China. In their eyes, the Republic of China in Taiwan is a rebellious government that must one day be reunited with them.
Taiwan has broken off from Mainland China and started their own thing, which in a lot of ways makes things simpler. They have their own democratic government that doesn't have to answer to the PRC. While there is the potential threat of the PRC coming in and taking over their land, such a move by the PRC would result in too much backlash from the rest of the world. While there is tension there, Taiwan can be comforted by the fact that the rest of the world has their back and will stand with them if something goes wrong.
I have arrived safely in Japan. I had a layover in Taipei (臺北) and saw James Harden rocking some #beats. #NBA #Rockets pic.twitter.com/1lIYKI4CGW— NBA Lord (@nba_lord) August 8, 2019
As for Hong Kong, they're in some weird in-between limbo kind of state. They were under British rule as a colony until 1997 in which they were handed back to the PRC under a certain set of conditions that promised them total freedom for 50 years (until 2047). What's happening now is the PRC is starting to infringe on Hong Kong's freedoms prematurely, trying to expedite the transition. The reason why the PRC is doing this is because there's now a lot more cities that are on par with Hong Kong's economic power such as Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou. In 1997, Hong Kong was by far the most economically powerful city in China, making it a valuable resource that made sense not to touch.
With that no longer the case, the PRC is asking themselves why not just bring Hong Kong back into the fold and get this all over with? Why delay the inevitable? From their perspective it's a totally fair question to ask.
As a result of this weird limbo state and seeing what's on the horizon, Hong Kongers are going through an identity crisis. For so long, they've seen themselves as Hong Kongers first and separate from the rest of Mainland China. They have their own unique culture and their first language isn't even Mandarin. It's Cantonese. Now, they see that in the near future, they're going to become grafted back into Mainland China and thus risk losing their Hong Kong identity. Their language risks getting replaced by Mandarin and their culture risks getting replaced by Mainland Chinese culture. It's a scary thing for them.
With all of this going on and so many layers to unpack, the NBA couldn't possibly address this issue in an adequate or fair way. Especially in a tweet. Instead of muddying the waters, the NBA should let Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Taiwan sort this all out by themselves. The best way they can help is to stay quiet about politics and bring harmony to the region through the game of basketball.
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