Criticism of China’s human rights abuses triggers retaliation

Criticism of China’s human rights abuses triggers retaliation
Image: YouTube screen grab

The Boston Celtics’ Enes Kanter posted a video to social media on Wednesday in which he labeled Chinese President Xi Jinping a “brutal dictator” and voiced support for Tibet’s independence.

He also tweeted, “More than 150 Tibetan people have burned themselves alive!! — hoping that such an act would raise more awareness about Tibet. I stand with my Tibetan brothers and sisters, and I support their calls for Freedom.”

As NBC reports, this drew a “shift reaction” from China’s government and triggered retaliation against the Celtics:

the NBA’s digital streaming partner in China [which] attracts half a billion viewers a season, pulled the broadcast of the Celtics’ game against the New York Knicks. The team’s upcoming games are also no longer listed as available…and searches for Kanter’s name appeared to have been blocked on China’s Twitter-like social media platform Weibo.

Wearing a T-shirt depicting Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, Kanter posted a two-minute video to social media Wednesday addressed to “Brutal dictator Xi Jinping and the Chinese government.”

“I’m here to add my voice and speak out about what is happening in Tibet. Under the Chinese government’s brutal rule, Tibetan people’s basic rights and freedoms are nonexistent,” he said, ending the video by repeating, “Free Tibet” three times.

During its occupation of Tibet, China has killed over a million Tibetans, mostly during the rule of longtime Chinese dictator Mao Zedong, even though only about 4 million people live in Tibet today. News Tibet says 156,758 Tibetans were executed, 92,731 were tortured to death, 173,221 died while in prison, 432,705 were killed in uprisings, and 342,970 starved to death. The deaths from starvation were blamed on the agricultural policies China imposed on the region. Under Mao’s less brutal successors, China has economically invested in Tibet, but it has continued to torture and kill political dissidents, eradicate aspects of Tibetan culture, and colonize the region.

Tibet is not the worst place to be a minority in China. In northwest China’s Xinjiang region, as many as three million members of ethnic minority groups have been imprisoned in grim concentration camps. Most of them are Uighurs, the largest minority group in the region. Torture is widespread in the concentration camps, and thousands have died from torture.

But the Biden administration seems inclined to turn a blind eye to genocide in China, its trade barriers and intellectual property theft, and its increasingly aggressive foreign policy, in order to get China’s government to make useless noises about fighting climate change.

The Biden administration has soft-peddled its criticism of genocide in China in hopes that it can get China’s government to make more verbal commitments to fighting climate change. But such rhetoric is meaningless on China’s part. China has declared its commitment to fighting climate change in the past, such as in ratifying the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. But that rhetoric about fighting climate change did not result in China actually cutting its emissions, which continued to rise rapidly. Indeed, China’s greenhouse gas emissions have more than tripled over the last 30 years. China’s greenhouse gas emissions now exceed those of the United States and every developed nation combined, according to research cited by CNBC. China accounts for 27% of total global emissions. The United States accounts for only 11%.

Promises and commitments often matter little to China’s communist government. It flouts even binding treaties it signs, such as the Convention Against Torture. Consider what it did after signing the United Nations Convention Against Torture in 1988. It did not stop torturing its citizens. Instead, it massively stepped up torture and repression instead. For example, it targeted members of a peaceful Buddhist group known as Falun Gong. Thousands of Falun Gong members were later tortured to death or had their organs forcibly extracted before they were killed, as Caylan Ford chronicled at Arc Digital.

An independent tribunal of experts, headed by United Nations war crimes prosecutor Sir Geoffrey Nice, found that forced organ harvesting occurred in China on a substantial scale — likely peaking at tens of thousands of victims per year — with the knowledge and endorsement of Chinese authorities. President Biden has minimized the cultural genocide, concentration camps, and mass killings committed by China’s government by attributing them to different cultural norms. “Culturally, there are different norms in each country and their leaders are expected to follow,” said Biden on Feb. 18. As Fox News notes, Biden was discussing “human rights atrocities carried out against the Uyghur populations in Western China.” A former National Security Advisor called Biden’s remarks “bigotry masquerading as cultural sensitivity.”

Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the Education Department. Hans writes for and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” Contact him at


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