China academy abuse claims 'disturbing', says National Basketball Association

Ruben Hill
August 1, 2020

The NBA received complains from its own employees over human rights concerns inside an NBA youth-development program in China, according to a report from ESPN.

It emerged earlier this week that the NBA past year ended its association with a training centre in China's western Xinjiang region, where Beijing faces growing worldwide condemnation over its treatment of minorities.

Tatum, who oversees the NBA's global operations, told ESPN that the league was "reevaluating" and "considering other opportunities" for its Chinese academy program. Last week, the league acknowledged for the first time it had closed the Xinjiang academy.

However, two sources disputed Tatum's comment to ESPN about the league having any plans to leave Xinjiang in Spring 2019. "It didn't end because [Tatum] said, 'We're gonna end this'".

"This report is disturbing and the @NBA needs to voluntarily correct the record of their involvement,"Sen Marsha Blackburn, R-Tn, stated".

In a statement to Fox News, Tatum said the league ended its involvement with the basketball academy in Xinjiang in June 2019 and that it is "re-evaluating the NBA Academy program in China", calling the allegations from ESPN's report "disturbing".

Tatum said the NBA launched the "elite player development initiative in 2016 by working to support three existing basketball development centres in China operated by local sports authorities. Our role was limited to providing three coaches at each academy, none of whom have been alleged to have engaged in any wrongdoing", Tatum added.

ESPN's investigation also found that "American coaches were frequently harassed and surveilled in Xinjiang", and that "one American coach was detained three times without cause; he and others were unable to obtain housing due to their status as foreigners".

Chinese state media reported that authorities in Xinjiang, where more than a million Uyghur Muslims are confined in government-run concentration camps and subject to a ruthless campaign of ethnic cleansing, have also declared that facilities such as copper mines, torture dungeons, enhanced interrogation cells, and reeducation grottos would no longer be segregated according to gender identity.

One coach told ESPN that he was stopped three times by police within a span of 10 months while working at one of the NBA's camps in Xinjiang and one occasion detained for some hours. One former coach described watching a Chinese coach throw a ball point-blank into a player's face before kicking him in the midsection.

It said the academy project was "fundamentally flawed" because the National Basketball Association coaches are placed under the authority of Chinese officials and do not have access to the country's elite players. "... You cannot more than listed here in February advertising Black History Month and also more than in China, where they're in reeducation camping grounds plus all individuals that you're partnering along with are actually attacking youngsters".

Tatum told ESPN that the league is "reevaluating" and "considering other opportunities" for the program.

Earlier this month, criticism of the NBA's ties to China was restored after it was found that consumers were forbidden from purchasing customized equipment that check out "Free Hong Kong" on its online shop.

The shop's operator, Fanatics recommended the expression was "inadvertently prohibited" and the restriction was raised.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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