EDITORIAL: Free speech protects and defends human rights, in light of Hong Kong protests

by | Oct 15, 2019 | Editorial

Et Cetera Staff

In today’s world, social media gives anyone and everyone a platform to speak their mind.

But what happens when that puts their jobs at risk, even if it’s something that is positive?

NBA players and coaches stood up for football quarterback Collin Kaepernick when he was blackballed from the NFL, and NBA players are standing behind NCAA athletes wanting to be paid.

They have been consistently on the right side of history. Except now when Houston Rockets General Manager Darryl Morey came under fire for supporting the Hong Kong democracy protests.

Morey tweeted he stood with the Hong Kong protesters while the Rockets were touring in China. “Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” he wrote.

Beijing, which usually bristles to foreign criticism or opinion, didn’t take too kindly to his statement.

The Chinese Basketball Association reacted by cutting cooperation with the Rockets while the Chinese government sought clarification and retraction. Chinese television threatened to not show any games between the touring NBA teams and local teams.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks during a news conference before the NBA preseason basketball game between Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan October 8, 2019, (Kyodo/via REUTERS)

Once the controversy was trending on Twitter, Rockets’ ownership contemplated whether Morey should be fired. If they were going to fire him, it’s more likely because the Rockets found an excuse where they can cut ties with him rather than his comments.

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta wanted nothing to do with the controversy for his team and for himself.

He tweeted that Morey does not speak on behalf of the Houston Rockets, that the team is focused on promoting the NBA internationally and that they are not a political organization. Further the press conferences following the remaining games were cancelled.

The controversy isn’t limited to basketball. Hearthstone pro gamer Ng Wai “Blitzchung” Chung got in trouble when shouted a pro-democracy statement in Chinese — “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age” — during a post-game interview with the official Taiwanese Hearthstone stream.

Video game company Blizzard banned Chung from playing Hearthstone eSports for one year and rescinded all of his prize money.

There seems to be a double standard with political issues in North America. There are different reactions and consequences when criticism involves China compared to reactions about the politics of other countries.

If anyone wants to voice their opinion, they should be allowed to do that without potentially getting fired.

But with the protest, no one was supporting or even said anything positive about Morey’s comments expect for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

The controversy continues to rage.

Epic Games said they would not punish a Fortnite player for political speech. The irony is that Chinese firm Tencent owns 40 per cent of Epic Games is owned and yet, they are showing more bravery than Blizzard.

A fan was ejected from the Philadelphia 76ers and Guangzhou Loong Lions game for supporting the protest by holding a “Free Hong Kong” sign.

Chinese organizers canceled a fan event on the day before the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers game in Shanghai on Oct. 10, part of the NBA pre-season tour in China.

The ongoing protests got the government of the former British colony to withdraw a fugitive offenders amendment bill that would have made extradition to China possible. Protesters are also demanding greater democracy.

Those voices should be heard and China’s money should not trump the free speech of those who speak against it. Everyone has a right to speak, especially if the Chinese government disapproves.