- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Demonstrators from a human rights group called the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation protested at a Washington Wizards preseason game Wednesday night against the Guangzhou Loong Lions from China.

The protesters handed out shirts that read “Free Hong Kong,” and one person in attendance screamed “Freedom of speech! Free Hong Kong!” before the U.S. national anthem was performed before the game.

Security approached one fan holding up a “Free Tibet” sign and another holding the Tibet flag. Security tried to take the sign, and the fan refused to give it up. Security then escorted them out of the seats.

China and the NBA are at odds after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted an image that said, “Fight For Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” There has been unrest and protests in Hong Kong, a “special administrative region” of China, since June 9 over an extradition bill that speaks more broadly to how China governs the jurisdiction.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver tried to defend Morey’s right to freedom of speech while simultaneously saying the league was “apologetic” for upsetting so many Chinese officials and basketball fans. His approach appeased neither Hong Kong independence activists nor China.

Revenue from the NBA’s business dealings in China has a large effect on the league’s basketball-related income, which determines things like players’ salaries.

The Wizards have hosted the Guangzhou team for exhibitions before, but in the midst of the NBA-China rift, the game became a ripe target for demonstration.

Two fans with “Free Hong Kong” signs were ejected from a Philadelphia 76ers game Tuesday against the Loong Lions. And while the fans say it was due to their signs, the team released a statement saying it was for “continuing disruption of the fan experience.”

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