Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert publicly denounced China for reportedly operating concentration camps on Thursday. Gobert, who is French, becomes the first NBA player to condemn China over alleged human rights violations against Uighur Muslims.
Gobert, who made headlines in March when he was the first NBA player to test positive for COVID-19, shared an Instagram story with the caption: "Wrong is wrong."
Gobert's message linked to an Instagram post by French actor Omar Sy's Instagram that has a light blue background to represent the blue flag of East Turkestan. The post featured the caption: "Millions of Uyghur Muslims are detained and tortured in concentration camps in China. Not for what they do, but for who they are. It is the largest mass incarceration of the 21st century. It has to end. #FreeUyghurs."
"Wrong is wrong" @NBA player @rudygobert27 participated in MEPs @rglucks1 @bueti @EnginEroglu_FW campaign to call… https://t.co/lTDSwhJtvX— WorldUyghurCongress (@WorldUyghurCongress)1601576814.0
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) applauded Gobert's rebuke of China with a tweet that said: "This is big. Rudy Gobert of the @utahjazz calling out oppression of #Uighurs - first @NBA player to do so publicly."
This is big. Rudy Gobert of the @utahjazz calling out oppression of #Uighurs - first @NBA player to do so publicly https://t.co/VE4cG6X1O4— Josh Hawley (@Josh Hawley)1601596519.0
Hawley previously called out the NBA for its cozy relationship with the communist country. Hawley wrote a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in July, where he lambasted the hypocrisy of the basketball league's policy of allowing players to select social activism messages on their jerseys such as "Black Lives Matter," "I Can't Breathe," and "Anti-Racist," but no messages about the Chinese internment camps.
Hawley also asked Silver why none of the 29 approved social justice messages are "in support of victims of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), including the people of Hong Kong, whose remaining freedoms are being extinguished by the CCP's newly-enacted national security law."
The last NBA employee who criticized China was castigated severely. Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey expressed support for Hong Kong protesters in a tweet posted on Oct. 4, 2019. Morey showed support for the pro-democracy protesters with a tweet that read: "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong."
Rockets' management quickly condemned Morey's tweet. NBA players also attacked the Rockets GM, including LeBron James, who reportedly questioned Commissioner Silver as to why Morey wasn't being punished for his tweet.
Despite Morey apologizing, China immediately retaliated harshly. China's state-owned CCTV and Tencent, the NBA's streaming partner in China, stopped airing NBA games in China.
In July, ESPN released a bombshell report that young players and children were physically abused by coaches at NBA training academies in China, including in the Xinjiang province where internment camps are housing Uighur Muslims.
The Chinese government operates "re-education camps" in Xinjiang, a province located in northwest China. The Chinese Communist Party officially calls the camps "vocational education and training centers."
The labor camps allegedly force Uighur and other Muslim ethnic minorities to assimilate under the guise of countermeasures fighting extremism and terrorism. Detainees must attend indoctrination sessions and are forced to work in factories.
In 2018, the United Nations said there are a million ethnic Uighurs held in what appears to be a "massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy" in China. Randall Schriver, former U.S. assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, estimated that the number of detained Muslims could be "closer to 3 million citizens."
"The (Chinese) Communist Party is using the security forces for mass imprisonment of Chinese Muslims in concentration camps," Schriver told the Pentagon during a briefing in 2019.
Human Rights Watch published a report in September 2018 detailing the "Chinese government's mass arbitrary detention, torture, and mistreatment of Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang and details the systemic and increasingly pervasive controls on daily life."