Update at October 7, 2019 - The NBA self-censors for China
The NBA is a business - we know that. But the NBA has been the professional league in which players and coaches have had the most freedom to speak their minds about issues of rights and morality. Now, apparently, that freedom of speech stops at the Chinese border. The New York Times has the story - NBA executive's Hong Kong tweet starts firestorm in China.
Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted an expression of support for protesters in Hong Kong. This upset the Chinese Basketball Association, and some Chinese fans, who see Hong Kongers as only hooligans and destroyers of Chinese harmony. Morey's tweet suggested that he "stands with Hong Kong." He has now apologized to the NBA's largest international market. The NBA has disavowed his comment, although it did suggest weakly that he had a right to say what he said. Of course, the Chinese league commented with the old trope, that Morey had hurt the feelings of all Chinese people (who are basketball fans).
The story is less that the NBA wilts in the face of Chinese outrage, but that the outrage is so unified, potentially deadly, and in accord with CCP desires. Plenty of other western businesses have set the pattern, whether on Hong Kong, Xinjiang, or Taiwan. The takeaway is that FBI director Christopher Wray is correct in his assessment of China as a "whole of society" threat. The ease with which we self-censor in the face of Chinese assessment that we have offended the whole of the Chinese people (how DO they make that determination?) is a threat to our own values in more than just business. In 2002, eminent China scholar Perry Link wrote of Chinese censorship as the "The Anaconda in the Chandelier" - everyone knows it is there, we can't see it, and don't know when it will strike. It is powerful, and causes us to behave differently. We fear all the more what we don't know and can't see. National inability to tolerate a single tweet by a relatively minor official of the NBA is itself a bargaining tactic to worry about. Who knows where it will strike next?
The original London theater story below.
China censorship by extortion in London
There cannot be anyone who still thinks "peaceful rise" is a metaphor for China's relations with the world. But the real fear is not what we see in the papers. The real fear is not China's military, or trade power, or isolating Taiwan, or OBOR, or votes and influence at the UN and in other international bodies. In a sense, not even IP theft, although that is the only current trade concern of real import.
What the world should fear over the next ten or twenty years is export of business and government practices conducted via cheating, extortion, threats to innocent parties, arrests under false pretenses, no rule of law, no free press, prison torture, and police and government action with impunity.
The latest example is threats to a theater performance in London.
The Guardian has the story -
From Beijing to Hampstead: how tale of HIV whistleblower rattled Chinese state
Now we have threats to the performing arts - a theater, in London. Via threats to the family and friends and daughter of the woman who is the subject of the play. Chinese security officials are threatening the family in China of a former health bureau official who exposed coverup of an HIV and hepatitis scandal in China in 1992 and 1995. Apparently the loss of face for CCP over events of 27 years ago is still salient.
Dr. Wang Shuping is not the author of the play, the director, an actor, and probably not an investor or audience member. The play is about her story to expose the coverup of "epic proportions" - demands to falsify medical data and then physical destruction of her lab and samples of blood tainted with hepatitis and HIV from donors. Wang is now an American citizen, a practicing nephrologist in Williamsburg, VA.
From Wang's statement to the media -
On 22 August 2019, I received a phone call from a relative in America who told me that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Ministry of State Security have sent officers from Beijing to Zhoukou, my hometown, to investigate my colleagues and relatives ... During the past ten years, officers from the PRC Ministry of Health, Ministry of Public Security and Ministry of State Security have been to my hometown to interrogate my relatives and colleagues several times, trying to silence me.
From the Guardian story -
The plot closely follows the battle Wang and her colleagues waged to uncover the truth. “I first reported the HCV [hepatitis] epidemic among blood donors to the Ministry of Health of PRC [People’s Republic of China] in 1992,” said Wang. “Three years later, I discovered and reported a serious HIV epidemic among the plasma donors to the Health Bureau of Zhoukou Region and the ministry of health of the PRC ... Only after I reported my results to the central government in Beijing was any action taken. They requested that I falsify my information about the HIV epidemic situation among the plasma donors but I refused. To cover up the HIV epidemic situation, they broke up our clinical testing centre, hit me with a heavy stick and insulted me.” Wang resisted pressure to close her laboratory, but the health bureau cut off the electricity and water supplies, forcing it to discard thousands of blood samples.
Officials have threatened the livelihoods of Wang's friends and family in Beijing, and attempted to contact her daughter, to threaten her also. The director of the play says they will do what Dr. Wang wishes - presumably, cancel the play if she feels the threats are extreme. She wishes the play to go on, even with the threats to family and friends.
Wang's closing statement -
The only thing harder than standing up to the Communists and their security police is not giving in to pressure from friends and relatives who are threatened with their livelihoods all because you are speaking out. But even after all this time, I will still not be silenced, even though I am deeply sad that this intimidation is happening yet again. The King of Hell’s Palace will go ahead and I am really looking forward to seeing the production.
You know about kidnapping of foreign business people in China over business disputes.
You know about the hostage taking of three Canadians as political retaliation over the Huawei business.
You know about threats at academic conferences and threats to individual foreign teachers, in their own country, of whom Beijing disapproves.
You know about threats to Chinese students studying abroad, and their families in China.
You know about threats to the families of Chinese students studying in Hong Kong.
You know about threats to foreign businesses, such as Marriott and United and American and Delta airlines if they don't cease calling the Republic of Taiwan the Republic of Taiwan.
You know about the threat to put Cathay Pacific Airlines out of business unless they policed the activities of their own employees in not supporting the Hong Kong protests.
Business is not safe from threat. Academics are not safe from threat in their home country. Students are not safe from threat. Now, theater is not safe from threat. One is reminded of the Niemoeller quote - "First came for the socialists, and I did nothing...." Or Edmund Burke - "All that is required for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
Dr. Wang's personal story is available at ChinaChange here. It is perhaps more detail than you want, but is a good example of how some Chinese exports will be expected to work if good people remain silent and do nothing.