NBA running a training center in the middle of China's Muslim gulag

August 20, 2018

Rick Moran

In 2016, the NBA canceled the venue for their all star game in Charlotte, N.C. because of the controversial "Bathroom Bill" that prevented males dressed like females from using school restrooms. But less than two weeks after that action, the league played an exhibition game in China, which not only discriminates against LGBTQ citizens, but has a horrible human rights record overall.

But there was no P.R. value in virtue-signaling over China. So the NBA chose to ignore China's miserable human rights and promote its game.

Now the NBA is running a training center in Xinjiang Province in China – right in the middle of Muslim concentration camps, where more than a million people are being held to be "re-educated."


In the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang, Chinese authorities are holding roughly a million Muslims in what government propaganda creepily calls "free hospital treatment for the masses with sick thinking" – in other words, concentration camps. Because of the difficulties of visiting the camps, and because Beijing downplays their existence, firsthand information is sparse. However, satellite photos, innovative research on government procurement bids, and excellent reporting by foreign journalists prove their existence. Some inmates are tortured. Others are forced to sit for hours singing songs praising the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
For the region's Muslims, most of whom belong to a Turkic-speaking minority known as Uighurs, the violations extend beyond imprisonment. Uighurs in Xinjiang can't wear veils or "abnormal" beards. In late 2017, Chinese authorities reportedly ordered them to relinquish prayer mats and Qurans. It's difficult for Uighurs to leave their homes without omnipresent police scanning their faces with dystopian accuracy, ostensibly as part of the hunt for "terrorists." Police require them to install an app – whose name translates to "web cleansing" – on their phones that alerts local authorities to "dangerous" content. They can't even own certain types of knives without registering them because of fears they will use them for violence. On Aug. 10, a member of a United Nations human rights panel condemned Beijing for turning the region into a "sort of 'no rights zone.'"

The league's hypocrisy on "human rights" for some and not for others is normal. But those running the NBA don't appear to be wrestling with their consciences over penned up Muslims as they were about boys dressed as girls using the women's john. Or about commonsense vetting of people coming from countries where terrorism is endemic.

Operating in such a place seems antithetical to the public stance of a league that has recently gone out of its way to tout its progressive, social-justice bona fides. After the Trump travel ban targeting seven Muslim-majority nations, prominent NBA figures took the side of the critics. League commissioner Adam Silver took the unusual step of criticizing the ban, saying "it goes against the fundamental values and the fundamental ingredients of what makes for a great NBA." Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy compared the ban to Hitler registering the Jews.

NBA stars like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have condemned police violence and racism in the United States, while players and executives have protested the Trump administration's separation of immigrant children from their parents. According to his LinkedIn page, the NBA executive George Land oversees the Xinjiang training center. On Twitter, Land's most recent activity is a retweet of the MSNBC host Chris Hayes condemning the U.S. separation of thousands of mothers from their children. But what about Xinjiang? Thousands of Uighur children are reportedly languishing in orphanages, awaiting their parents' release from the concentration camps.

The hypocrisy is easy to explain: money.

China, with its market of 1.4 billion potential fans, offers great hope for basketball's future, and Beijing presumably approves of the league's willingness to work in Xinjiang – both because it helps bring development to a relatively poor region and because it helps legitimize the repression against Uighurs. The league and its stars are phenomenally popular throughout the country, including Xinjiang. Zhou Qi, the only Chinese player in the NBA last season, formerly played for the region's team, the Xinjiang Flying Tigers.

Corporate America has totally bought in to the social justice agenda of its athletes – except when hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake. Then just watch how "flexible" they can be.