This past weekend, Boston Celtics Center Enes Kanter took part in a protest against the Chinese government in Washington, D.C.
During this protest, Kanter and other participants called Congress to “take tangible steps to end slavery” in China.
Frances Martel of Breitbart New noted that Kanter gained national attention in October to launch a campaign against China’s human rights violations. The National Basketball Association (NBA) has a large audience in China, thus making Kanter’s actions even more controversial.
As Agency France-Presse reported, previous criticism of China by NBA figures has resulted in the league losing hundreds of millions in revenues in Chinese markets.
Kanter teamed up with Uyghur, Tibetan, and other ethnic minority groups in Washington, D.C., and pressed Congress to take punitive actions against companies that import goods made in Chinese forced labor camps.
“Pass the Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act. Take tangible steps to end slavery and save lives,” Kanter firmly demanded.
According to a Voice of America report, Kanter was disenchanted that very few NBA players had joined his campaign.
Before Kanter went public about his criticism of China, Utah Jazz Center Rudy Gobert was the only player to publicly speak out against the harsh treatment of the Uyghur people in China.
“As an NBA athlete, it is saddening, disgraceful, disgusting to see them remain silent about China,” Kanter declared. “We need action. Not just words. We have to make human rights a priority in both U.S. and foreign policies.”
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act has not made significant progress in Congress so far. If signed into law, the bill would prohibit all imports from East Turkestan, where the Uyghurs predominately inhabit. Easter Turkestan is also known as Xinjiang by Chinese authorities.
Under this law, any company that tries to import goods from Xinjiang would have to demonstrate to the U.S. government that the products are not made by forced labor. Despite passing in the Senate, this bill has not made much progress in the U.S. House.
Martel observed, “Some of America’s most powerful corporations, notably including major NBA sponsor Nike, have lobbied Congress not to pass it.”
Last week, Kanter published a video calling out Nike for its support of left-wing protests in America while ignoring the situation in China.
“You do not protest police brutality in China,” Kanter asserted. “You do not speak about discrimination against the LGBTQ community, you do not say a word about the oppression of minorities in China. You have still to speak up.”
Kanter even asked Nike co-founder Phil Knight to join him in a visit to Xinjiang and observe the working conditions of the labor camps in the region. Prominent Nike figures such as LeBron James and Michael Jordan have also been called on to join Kanter. However, they have not responded to Kanter’s request.
Kanter started his campaign against the Chinese Communist Party by publishing a video supporting Tibetan independence.
Like Xinjiang, the Chinese government has used a wide array of soft and hard power mechanisms to “sinicize” and assimilate the Tibetan people. This includes the prohibition of Tibetan Buddhism and the Tibetan language.
In response to the first video directed against the CCP, Chinese technology conglomerate Tencent blocked all live streaming of Boston Celtics NBA games.
The efforts to assimilate the Uyghur population, a Turkic ethnic group that is Islamic in confession, are part of the CCP’s more nationalist turn under Xi Jinping.
Chinese authorities have cracked down on the Uyghurs under the pretext of combatting terrorism, citing the presence of numerous terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda taking root within certain segments of the Uyghur population.
Kanter recently kicked off his 11th season in the NBA. So far in the 2021-2022 season, he is averaging 2 points and 2 rebounds. Overall, Kanter has averaged 11.5 points and 7.9 rebounds in his NBA career.