Weeks before the start of the NBA season, dissension sparked between the NBA and China due to a tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. In the tweet, Morey voiced out an opinion that supported the protests in Hong Kong. Because of Morey’s actions, all of the NBA’s partners centered in China have cut ties with the NBA. In this paper, the topic of free speech and expression and how it relates to the way businesses operate in times of difficulty, and the proper way to respond to incidents of this similarity.
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To understand this problem, it is best if the history of Hong Kong is explained. (Szczepanski, 2019) said the following; In 1898, as a result of the Opium Wars, Great Britain arranged a lease for which they would use Hong Kong for 99 years. In 1984, Great Britain and the Chinese negotiated a plan for the lease to end in a way that Hong Kong would remain a semi-autonomous region, and in 1997, this plan came into fruition, with the lease finally ending (Tijerina, 1984). To further back this statement, in Hong Kong’s Transformation into a Service Hub: Regional Development within “One Country, Two Systems”, the authors explain how Hong Kong was assimilated back into Chinese control, “With China’s creation of the Pearl River Delta (PRD) as a region in 1985 and the reversion of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, Hong Kong faced many unprecedented challenges. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) was established under the principle of ‘one country, two systems’ (OCTS) (Ramon-Berjano et al., 2011).” Because of this, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has a high degree of autonomy due to this autonomy, they can enjoy and exercise executive, legislative, and independent judicial power.
Fast-forwarding to the present, Hong Kong’s government proposed an extradition bill that would allow the government to return criminals to the country seeking to prosecute them. However, if this bill were to take place, criminals convicted in China would have to be tried in China, which is known to have an unfair criminal justice system. “On Tuesday, massive anti-government protests in Hong Kong snarled operations at the city's airport, forcing the cancelation of outbound flights for the second consecutive day. Demonstrators swarmed ticketing desks and baggage-claim areas, making travel functionally impossible. Riot police briefly entered the building, and according to The New York Times, one officer drew a gun in an altercation with protestors but did not fire” The Hong Kong Protests, Explained (Willis, 2019) Because of this proposal of law, protests have begun to erupt in Hong Kong, resulting in the city of Hong Kong being hostile
These events lead us to the day where Morey sends out his tweet. On October 4th, 2019, Daryl Morey tweeted a post that read, “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong,” a message in support of the Hong Kong protests. Regarding this tweet, China broadcasting services and sponsorships have canceled and suspended their agreements with the NBA, which has resulted in many financial losses for the NBA. A statement by China Central Television, further backs this statement, “We've noted that Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA who has been attending events in Japan, has responded to the inappropriate comment on Hong Kong made by the general manager of the Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey. We voice our strong dissatisfaction and opposition to Adam Silver offering as an excuse the right to freedom of expression. We believe that no comments challenging national sovereignty and social stability fall within the scope of freedom of expression. In light of this, China Media Group sports channel has decided to immediately suspend the current plans to relay broadcast the NBA pre-season (China games) and will immediately undertake a full check of all cooperative exchanges involving the NBA (Wimbish & Ward-Henninger, 2019).”
The NBA decided to give a neutral response to this dilemma, as they claim they regret upsetting China, however, the league said it would not undermine the values of freedom of speech, and expression because of the actions Morey made. People have now been protesting at NBA games, in favor of Hong Kong, however, the NBA contradicts their initial standing on the Daryl Morey incident, censor all things Hong Kong related. Which leads to people questioning whether or not the NBA stands for democracy, rather than undermining it for the sake of profit.
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The fact of the matter is that the NBA is not undermining democracy. The NBA has apologized for the actions of someone who does represent them as a whole, but in regards to that, they are standing behind the liberties of freedom of speech and expression. If the NBA were to adhere in China’s favor, then they would have fired Daryl Morey. However, since they did not the NBA stands for what they believe in, and that is the aspect of democracy. If the NBA plans to repair their relationship with China, then it is best to just simply wait for the conflict to dilute over time, as of now there is not much they can do as the ideals of American free speech and freedom of expression are not the same in China. Both countries operate with different systems, and have different methods to approach matters, however, it is best if both sides respect their differences, and move on.
- Ramon-Berjano C. B., Xiaobin S. Z, & Ming C. Y, (2011). Hong Kong’s Transformation into a Service Hub: Regional Development within “One Country, Two Systems”, 51(4), 584-609. https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/as.2011.51.4.584
- Szczepanski, K. (2019, October 2) Why Did China Lease Hong Kong to Britain? ThoughtCo. Retrieved October 29, 2019, from https://www.thoughtco.com/china-lease-hong-kong-to-britain-195153
- Tijerina, E. (1984). Hong Kong: An Uncertain Future. Harvard International Review, 6(6), 35-36. https://www.jstor.org/stable/42773916
- Willis, J. (2019, August 14) The Hong Kong Protests, Explained. GQ. Retrieved on October 29, 2019, from https://www.gq.com/story/hong-kong-protests-explained
- Wimbish, J., Ward-Henninger, C. (2019, October 14) NBA-China issue: Latest news resulting from Daryl Morey’s Hong Kong tweet, what it means for the league. Retrieved October 30, 2019, from https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/nba-china-issue-latest-news-resulting-from-daryl moreys-hong-kong-tweet-what-it-means-for-the-league/
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