China, Hong Kong, and Basketball: How One Tweet Started a Firestorm in the NBA

by Nicholas Kishaba

Staff Writer

In March, demonstrations began in the streets of Hong Kong, largely in protest against a bill which would essentially allow the Chinese government to extradite fugitives from regions they do not currently control, such as Taiwan, Macau, and Hong Kong. Since then, Hong Kong City Leader Carrie Lam has agreed to withdraw the bill, however, as protests have increased in both frequency and violence, protesters’ demands have consolidated into a call for democracy. Among other demands such as amnesty for arrested protesters, and an inquiry into police brutality, there are also demands for the resignation for Lam, who is believed by the protesters to be a pawn for Beijing.

The constant tensions between protesters and the Chinese government, as well as the global focus they have received, have forced many American businesses to pick a side. Choose Hong Kong, and accept the fiscal repercussions of going against the Chinese government, or choose China, and suffer the social backlash in the United States of aligning with a country that has often “undermined people’s rights to free speech and political participation.” One organization has taken center stage in the Hong Kong dilemma: the National Basketball Association. 

Demonstrators in Hong Kong protest the new anti-mask law, despite heavy rains.

The NBA, which is the most notable basketball league in the United States, has grown to be one of the most popular and profitable sports leagues in the United States, but much of this growth was done on the back of the Chinese television market. In June 2019, the NBA announced a five-year extension of the partnership with the league’s current partner in China, Tencent,  worth an estimated 1.5 billion dollars. According to the NBA, roughly 640 million people watched some form of NBA programming during the 2018 season. In essence, basketball has become the biggest sport in China, and the NBA is China’s most popular basketball league. For the NBA, its stake in the Chinese market is notable, and the downfall of losing access to it would be steep. Yet on October 4th, the general manager of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey, tweeted an image stating “Fight for Freedom, Stand With Hong Kong.” The Chinese consulate in Houston reacted swiftly, quickly denouncing him. However, more surprise was yet to come as Morey was forced to tweet an apology while the NBA declared his statement as regrettable. While many understand the NBA’s fiscal relationship with China, distancing themselves from Morey and his statements appeared to many as tolerance for the Chinese government, if not outright support. 

For nearly 60 years, the NBA has been characterized as a league of free speech, protests, and social activism. From Bill Russell becoming the black coach in American Sports in 1966, to players and coaches openly criticizing Donald Trump’s policies, the NBA has been identified as arguably the most progressive sports league in the U.S. But the conflict between China and Hong Kong has shown a lack of confidence in the players, owners, and league towards activism. The league which has never punished someone for expressing their views is speculated to have pressured Daryl Morey to publicly apologize. Even LeBron James, a player who in the past wore “I Can’t Breathe” shirts, opened a school for underserved children in Ohio, and called Donald Trump a “bum,” criticized Morey for his tweet, arguing that he wasn’t properly educated on the situation. 

While it is likely that the NBA leadership would have preferred to remain neutral in the conflict, James, as arguably the most notable basketball figure of the 21st century, has chosen the side of the NBA, irrespective of the views held by others in the organization. It doesn’t matter that Kyrie Irving, a player for the Brooklyn Nets, gave his support to Hong Kong in a post-game interview, nor is it of any consequence that former player Shaquille O’Neal had outrightly declared that Daryl Morey was right. The public image of the NBA has suffered in both of its biggest markets. Some players have quickly sided with Hong Kong, while others  are attempting to maintain business ties with the Chinese market. The rest are caught in the crossfire, avoiding choosing sides, and citing a lack of knowledge on the situation to provide comments. The most recent official comment by the NBA, made by the commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, is that the NBA would support freedom of expression. But for many fans in both the United States and Hong Kong, this public expression of support is just not enough. Bipartisan pressure from Congress is pushing the NBA to change its stance on Hong Kong, as senators and congressmen are pressuring U.S. companies to confront China. However, the threat of action from the Chinese government looms large as well. The NBA has already faced consequences, as Tencent, the NBA’s streaming partner, has cut off Houston Rockets’ games from their platform. Further statements on Hong Kong would likely see more stringent action being taken against the NBA. Seeking to satisfy fans in the United States in this controversy would undoubtedly hurt their relationship with the Chinese government and the market under their control. Unfortunately for the NBA, it’s nearly impossible to satisfy all sides of the equation, and the statements which have been made have already hurt its image, reputation, and revenue.

Photos courtesy of:

Etan Liam

Piotr Drabik

The Who, What, and Why of Climate Refugees

By Rebeca Camacho, Tenzin Chomphel, and Jasmine Moheb

While the science of climate change remains a heated debate at the forefront of international policy agenda, the reality of people being displaced from their homes due to environmental conditions is a hardened fact. The World Bank has concluded that by 2050, 143 million people will be displaced directly due to climate change. Countries that are especially susceptible to environmental disasters are those coming from lower socio-economic backgrounds, as they will lack the technology and preparation necessary to overcome challenges that are brought forth by environmental changes, such as rising sea levels and water scarcity.

In face of the increasing evidence that climate change has led to the displacement of populations, it is surprising that even basic definitions for the concept of a “climate refugee” are still contested to this day. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that although the term “climate refugee” is one that can be used in the media and has great support in evidence of migrating individuals, it is not legally recognized in international law. This is due to its contrasting definition to the standard interpretation of refugee as someone who has been displaced specifically due to persecution based on identity or discrimination. The lack of legal definition in international law for “climate refugees” leads to some confusion regarding the legal framework of how they can be dealt with by countries with pre-existing refugee sanctuary policies. 

Despite this, in light of increasing climate refugees, the UNHCR established an Advisory Group on Climate Change and Human Mobility, allowing for the organization to take part in helping victims of environmental disasters although it does not necessarily directly fall under its jurisdiction. Additional steps are being taken at the international level as the 2017 United Nations Climate Change Conference also led to the creation of a task force that would map human migrations and produce policies that address gaps in international law regarding climate displacement. Furthermore, countries around the world are taking the responsibility upon themselves to provide shelter for climate refugees. The Nansen Initiative is a program adopted by Switzerland and Norway in 2012 that attempts to govern cross-border migration due to displacement resulting from environmental disasters.

In conjunction with the rise of these displaced populations, we have seen a pullback from the United States on any action towards addressing climate change or its effects. The largely symbolic yet hugely consequential pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords, exemplified this distaste for any international collaboration. Having the largest country in terms of GDP, and the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases out of the agreements presents a critical obstacle from both creating and encouraging a multilateral response to climate change. Not only does this convey the message that the United States does not prioritize global climate refugees, but it also ignores those experiencing the exact same conditions domestically.  The disastrous effects of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico for example, have displaced thousands of U.S. citizens, leaving them homeless and at the mercy of diminishing federal aid. With substantial evidence to indicate that Maria’s storm was greatly strengthened by the effects of warming water temperatures, the impacts of this global environmental change and political inaction in response, are unsurprisingly inescapable.

With all of these factors considered, Prospect Journal of International Affairs aims to shed some much needed light on the rise of Climate Refugees, and the various perspectives from which this rise can be viewed in our Fall 2019 Global Forum on Climate Refugees. From the perspective of international law, Professor David Victor will discuss the possibility of climate change becoming a matter of National security. Postdoctoral researcher Marena Lin will discuss adaptation through labor and immigration rights, specifically in the context of Pacific Islanders. Lastly, Professor Milton Saier will discuss the impacts of the human population both overall and on an individual consumer basis, towards the refugee crisis. 

Dissemination and discussion is a critical first step towards addressing any widespread issue. Prospect, No Lost Generation and I-House hope that through this Global Forum, we are able to play a small role in expanding and engaging the minds of the UC San Diego community towards a collective action. 
Featured image by Marco Verch

OLD ALTERNATIVES: THE RETURN OF NATIONALISM TO GERMAN POLITICS

By Marc Camanag
Staff Writer

Six years after a seemingly innocuous entrance into the political sphere, the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) has grown into a nationalist powerhouse that holds the third-largest share in the country’s federal parliament. Echoing similar movements across Europe, the AfD’s platform has tapped into deep-rooted, populist fears to launch itself on a trajectory that no party has ever pulled off in such short time. As the first far-right party to set foot in the Bundestag in nearly sixty years, the AfD raises the question: Why has nationalism returned to German politics, and why now? 

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