Protesters handed out T-shirts and held up signs in support of Hong Kong during a basketball pre-season match between an American and a Chinese team in Washington on Wednesday night.

hong kong protest nba
Photo: @JonSchweppe screenshot via Twitter.

The Washington Wizards were playing the Guangzhou Loong-Lions at the Capital One Arena, with separate groups of people protesting during the game.

The demonstrators included two people who were originally from Hong Kong and part of the advocacy group DC4HK.

They chanted “Free Hong Kong, revolution of our times” in English and Cantonese whilst holding a US flag and an iPad showing slogans including “Say no to NBA censorship.”

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has embroiled in controversy after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted a picture last week in support of the Hong Kong protests. The NBA has said it supports free speech, and China has cancelled some NBA events in Shanghai in response.

Daniel Wong, one of the two Hongkongers living in DC who protested, told HKFP that he believed every Hong Kong person should speak out for freedom of speech, autonomy and democracy for Hong Kong.

“It is not just about Hong Kong – it is about China’s totalitarianism against the free world,” he said.

“I hope the US will stand with Hong Kong and fight for freedom, and not give up Hong Kong for money,” he added.

Another group of protesters, led by Freedom House Director of Advocacy Annie Boyajian, handed out “Free Hong Kong” T-shirts on the street outside the arena before the game.

They held up signs that read “Shame on the NBA,” ”South Park was right” and “Memo to the NBA: Principles over profit! No to censorship! USA loves Hong Kong.”

Boyajian said: “Honoured to stand with friends tonight defending free speech in America, standing in solidarity with Hong Kong, and speaking out against CCP bullying and the NBA’s embarrassing behaviour.”

After the playing of the Chinese national anthem, one fan chanted “Freedom of speech! Free Hong Kong!” before he left voluntarily.

A fan holding up a “Free Tibet” sign and another holding the Tibet flag were approached by security guards in the arena.

They left as they were followed by security guards.

Three people wearing “Free Hong Kong” T-shirts, held up signs that read “Google Uyghurs,” referring to China’s mass detention of ethnic Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

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Security approached them and said political banners were not allowed in the arena. The three gave up the sign and were allowed to stay to watch the march.

A Wizards spokesperson said in a statement: “The building security staff removed signs tonight in accordance with Capital One Arena’s long-standing signs, banners, posters and flag policy. No fans were asked to leave the game.”

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Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.