An NBA player slammed China’s President Xi Jinping as a “brutal dictator” and declared that “Tibet belongs to the Tibetan people” on Wednesday, risking reigniting tensions between Beijing and the US basketball league.

Enes Kanter, who plays as a center for the Boston Celtics, wrote on Twitter: “Dear Brutal Dictator XI JINPING and the Chinese Government. Tibet belongs to the Tibetan people!”

“I stand with my Tibetan brothers and sisters, and I support their calls for Freedom,” he added, next to a picture of some sneakers adorned with Tibetan iconography and sporting the slogan “Free Tibet”.

Tibet has alternated over the centuries between independence and control by China, which claims it “peacefully liberated” the rugged plateau in 1951 and brought infrastructure and education to the previously underdeveloped region.

Enes Kanter. File photo: Enes Kanter via Twitter.

But human rights campaigners and exiles say the Chinese central government practises religious repression, torture, forced sterilization and cultural erosion through forced re-education.

The message by Kanter — who is vocal in defence of various political causes — was also posted on Facebook.

Global brands including the NBA have in recent years been consumed by PR crises and faced financial repercussions in China after touching politically sensitive subjects.

In 2019, Chinese broadcasters dropped the league after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted a message of support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

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