NBA player Annes Freedom to corner the head of UN rights over China

One end, one end

File – Portland Trail Blazer Center Annes Canter hangs in the net before the first half of Game 7 of the NBA basketball second-round play-off series against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, May 12, 2019 in Denver. (AP Photo / John Leiba)

Longtime NBA player Anes Kanter Freedom, whose advocacy has spread feathers over Xinjiang and Tibet, is expected to turn a deaf ear to UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on her upcoming visit to China on Thursday.

Canter Freedom has emerged as one of China’s most vocal critics in the sports world: a rare athlete willing to give up lucrative approvals to talk about Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghur Muslim and Tibetan minorities.

And since they both attended an event in Geneva, he hopes to encourage Bachelet to take “tough action” against China instead of merely condemning it.

“I am really hopeful for that meeting,” he told AFP.

“We need change, and change cannot wait. We need to take immediate action. What he represents is to bring awareness but what I want to tell him is, don’t just talk about it: stay about it.

“Take some tough action because condemnation is good, it brings awareness, but it doesn’t change anything.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is due to make a long-delayed visit to China in May, including Xinjiang, where Western lawmakers have accused Beijing of genocide against Uighurs – an allegation China vehemently denies.

“We have no time to wait. People are dying and dying, so he must push whoever he has to push, ”said Canter Freedom.

Money vs. Morality

He grew up in Turkey and played for the national team, but criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over rights issues, and in 2017 the Turkish government revoked his passport.

A few years later, Kanter said he feared for his life and refused to leave North America.

The former Boston Celtics Center, who made his NBA debut with the Utah Jazz in 2011, became a U.S. citizen last November and added Freedom to his name to celebrate his new nationality.

He will be awarded the 2022 Bravery Award on Wednesday at the 14th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, organized by Odhikar NGO, for “risking his career” to talk about Uyghurs.

China is still the NBA’s largest overseas market, but in October last year, Chinese streaming service Tencent Cantor Freedom stopped showing Celtic games after branding President Xi Jinping a “cruel dictator.”

Canter Freedom says athletes nowadays have a huge platform due to their social media reach, and urged them to use it to raise issues that transcend their sports – even if it risks the opportunities of the sponsorship deal.

He called for a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, and said he was pleased to see a diplomatic snub in some countries, saying athletes should have taken a stand.

“They have chosen money and business over ethics, policy and values. It’s a shame for all these participating athletes, “he said.

Canter Freedom says China is closely monitoring the world’s response to Russia’s war in Ukraine and has called for tougher sanctions on Moscow to prevent Taiwan from attacking Beijing.

“We don’t want another Ukraine with Taiwan,” he said.

Business, then release

Annes Kanter Celtics

File-Anne Kanter during his tenure with the Boston Celtics. Mike Ehrman / Getty Images / AFP

NBA basketball returned to Chinese state broadcaster CCTV last week for the first time in nearly 18 months, after a Houston Rockets official blacklisted it after China backed Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

Canter Freedom thinks he is paying the price for his advocacy.

The Celtics traded him to the Rockets in February – and those who released him immediately began looking for a new NBA team.

“Last year I had an average double-double and people know I can still go there and play,” he said, quoting his statistics.

“I am 29 years old and I plan to play in the league for another six or seven years because my body feels healthy and I like basketball.

“I believe that yes, they are punishing me in a way, and making sure that every other athlete sees what I’m going through so they don’t talk about the problems that are happening in China.”

However, he added: “I do not regret what I did. If I could go back on time, I would do it harder. “

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