The Chinese state propaganda outlet Global Times declared free speech does not exist in the United States in a column on Wednesday. It cited as evidence the fact basketball player LeBron James has faced criticism for defending his business interests with the communist regime in Beijing.
International observers, basketball fans, and lawmakers alike panned James’ statements this week that Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey should have “waited a week” to defend the peaceful pro-democracy protesters of Hong Kong because James was in China at the time and Morey’s comments personally inconvenienced him. James contended that freedom of speech had “negative” consequences, echoing the pages of the Global Times.
Following James’ comments, the Times and similar Communist Party media outlets changed the tenor of their NBA coverage completely, from justifying Chinese communists celebrating the September 11 jihadist attacks to spite Morey to encouraging Chinese people to support NBA players because they had no control over Morey’s remarks.
Morey sparked a global controversy by publishing an image on Twitter reading, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” The NBA forced him to delete the tweet and apologize profusely; it also issued its own kowtowing apology to the Communist Party.
Facing extreme backlash from disgusted fans at home, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver later attempted to claim that Morey was “supported in his freedom of speech,” but did not clarify by who. Morey has not made any public comments since his apology for posting a statement in defense of freedom and human rights.
James has faced no professional repercussions for defending communist China and has lost no endorsement deals. He has also faced no legal consequences for his remarks, as the United States fully protects its citizens’ rights to express themselves politically.
Despite this, the Global Times declared American freedom of speech “fake” because other Americans objected to James’ remarks. Americans “humiliated” James, the newspaper claimed, a response that “impressed Chinese society deeply.”
“‘Freedom of speech’ in the U.S. is indeed fake,” the propaganda outlet declared. “It must be based on political correctness. In other words, as Morey’s support for Hong Kong protests is in line with US political correctness, it should be categorized as ‘freedom of speech’ which must be strongly defended. But James’ criticism of Morey, which is not politically correct enough, has nothing to do with freedom of speech.”
The Global Times provided no evidence of any individual in America declaring that James did not have the right to state his opinion.
In the same article, the Times attacked America for allowing its citizens free speech, lamenting that America’s “system” does not censor opinions online like China’s does.
“China’s difficulties come mainly from the internet opinion, but there is no lack of institutional forces to manage them in Chinese society,” the newspaper – one of the few legal media outlets in the country, as it is paid for and controlled by the Communist Party – said. “However, the trouble in the US lies more in its system. The internet, mainstream media outlets, and political figures such as members of Congress have joined hands to crack down on buffers like James who tried to mitigate the NBA row.”
In a separate article, the Global Times also used its usual trick of claiming that Chinese “netizens” had supported James’ comments and were outraged that anyone would criticize them, not noting in this article what it did in the last: Beijing heavily regulates online opinion and no comments that Communist Party dictator Xi Jinping personally disagrees with are allowed to remain online. Nonetheless, the Times applauded the “restraint” of the Chinese people and claimed it was America that “has zero tolerance for different opinions.”
“James’ move was just an expression of his views, which should be respected, never satirized or treated violently, [a government-approved] user argued,” the Times said, adding “freedom from satire” to its definition of free speech.
Hu Xijin, head propagandist at the Global Times, teased this line of attack on Twitter Wednesday, receiving a barrage of mockery and insults for asking, “does LeBron James have the freedom to express disagreement with Morey?”
Daryl Morey supported Hong Kong protesters. It is freedom of speech. I get it. But also in the US, does Lebron James have the freedom to express disagreement with Morey?
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) October 16, 2019
As a tool of the Communist Party, Hu is one of the few Chinese citizens allowed to use Twitter.
Millions of people in Hong Kong, legally protected from falling under Chinese communist rule, have taken the streets since June demanding the Communist Party stop attempting to usurp the power of its government. As authorities have responded with extreme violence, protesters are now also demanding that police be held accountable for brutalizing the protesters and that their peers, prisoners of conscience, be freed.
Morey expressed support for their movement.
James, returning from lucrative exhibition matches in China this week, weighed in after the Global Times’s Hu had announced that he had ordered his writers to back off from the NBA, which now feared losing too much money from outraged American fans and having that profit loss trickle down to China. James called Morey “uneducated” and said his remarks were the “negative” consequences of freedom of speech. Attempting to clarify on Twitter after near-unanimous condemnation, James added that he would not discuss the “substance” of the Hong Kong protests, but that he only meant to criticize Morey for not taking James’ personal business dealings in China into account.
On Tuesday, James offered what he claimed were his final remarks on the matter, derisively stating that the Hong Kong protests were not his “problem.”