NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom says he would accept a visit to China – as long as he gets to see “the real China,” rather than “propaganda.”
On Monday, at a press conference in Beijing, former NBA player Yao Ming had been asked about Freedom’s recent activism. Yao, now president of the state-affiliated Chinese Basketball Association, responded: “If there is an opportunity, I would like to invite him to visit China …Then he may have a more comprehensive understanding of us.”
Freedom – the Boston Celtics center who officially changed his last name in November – is outspoken about human rights and has used his social media presence to criticize China’s treatment of the Uyghur community, among a number of other social issues.
The US State Department estimates as many as two million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have been detained in internment camps in Xinjiang province since 2017, although China has repeatedly denied accusations of human rights abuses.
“I want to say thank you to Mr. Yao Ming … I actually do want to go to China and see everything with my own eyes,” Freedom told CNN’s John Berman on New Day. “But on this trip, I want to ask Mr. Yao Ming, will I be able to visit labor camps?”
He added: “I don’t need a lecture through China, I don’t want propaganda. I want to actually get to see the real China and show the whole world what’s going on. So, yes, I actually do accept his offer.”
Freedom has also previously raised awareness for China’s treatment of Tibet, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and has more recently called for a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
The 29-year-old’s comments have prompted a backlash in the Asian nation, with Celtics games being pulled by Chinese video streaming site Tencent and the government criticizing Freedom’s comments.
“I want everyone to know that China’s Communist Party does not represent the Olympic core of excellence, of friendship, of respect,” he continued. “They are a brutal dictatorship. They threaten freedoms and they do not respect human rights.”
Earlier this week, the Golden State Warriors distanced themselves from comments made by part owner Chamath Palihapitiya, who said on a podcast that “nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs.” He added: “It’s nice that you care, but the rest of us don’t care.”
The Warriors said in a statement that Palihapitiya “has no day-to-day operating functions” with the team and that “his views certainly don’t reflect those of our organization.”
For his own part, Freedom called Palihapitiya’s comments “unbelievable,” adding: “It was pathetic, it was disgusting, and I was very ashamed for him for sure.”