Minitrue: Remove All Reports Related to the NBA from Homepages

The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The names of the issuing bodies have been omitted to protect the sources.

All websites: Remove all reports related to the  from the dual homepages [site-wide and news] (including [social media] clients), and move articles to the backend of the site. Cool down and do not hype related topics. During this sensitive period, do not mislead public opinion. (October 10, 2019) [Chinese]

In the wake of a political firestorm launched by a tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey expressing support for ongoing protests in Hong Kong, the NBA has faced a backlash in China–from the government, its corporate sponsors, and fans.

The official broadcaster CCTV, and Tencent, which is licensed to stream NBA games in China, have both said they will not show any of the pre-season games, some of which are scheduled to be played in China. The future of the NBA franchise in China is uncertain.

But now the government is taking steps to cool the public anger in China. Keith Bradsher and Javier C. Hernández report for The New York Times:

For days, China’s state-run news outlets and tightly controlled social media platforms had been alight with criticism of the N.B.A. after a Houston Rockets executive expressed support for Hong Kong’s antigovernment protesters on Twitter. Plans to broadcast two N.B.A. preseason games were canceled and some Chinese companies suspended partnerships with the league.

Now, the Chinese government appears to be reassessing its campaign against the N.B.A. and dialing down the clamor. The government is already in a bruising trade war with the United States, and a backlash against China could hurt its image in the sporting world ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics near Beijing. The dispute with the N.B.A. was also quickly politicizing an audience of sports fans who would not normally focus on issues like the protests in Hong Kong.

Editors at state news outlets have told reporters to avoid emphasizing the N.B.A. issue for fear that it might become overheated, according to interviews with three journalists on Thursday. [Source]

One of the pre-season games held in Shanghai, between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets, was unexpectedly well-attended Thursday night, though some fans’ anger was evident, even as they watched the game. Despite calls for fans to bring displays of nationalism to the stadium, national flags were reportedly not allowed in, according to some reports:

In the U.S., where many were upset at the NBA for its response distancing itself from Morey’s tweet, concerns are growing over censorship on political issues related to China. ESPN, which has a business partnership with Tencent, allegedly told its reporters not to discuss political issues when covering the NBA story. ESPN has made other editorial decisions which appear aimed at appeasing Chinese political interests:

At a press conference ahead of a pre-season game, a CNN reporter’s questions about the league’s support for free speech was shut down by NBA representatives.

But the controversy has also inspired protesters at games in the U.S. to show up with signs supporting Hong Kong protests and against the detention of more than one million Uyghurs in internment camps in Xinjiang, where the NBA has a training camp. Some people holding signs got kicked out of games in Philadelphia and Washington DC.

真Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth since 2011.

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