A leader of the ongoing protests against the Chinese government in Hong Kong has called out NBA superstar LeBron James.
Joshua Wong, one of the faces of the group that took to the streets of Hong Kong to protest an extradition bill in 2019, called James a hypocrite in response to a report about James forming a voting rights group with prominent black athletes.
Wong said James is advocating for the rights of US protesters now but did not do so for Hong Kong protesters after Rockets GM Daryl Morey touched off an international incident by tweeting his support.
"Defending democracy is vital, but @KingJames only talks loud in the US. On China, not only is he silent, he actively shuts others up. He called @dmorey "misinformed" and "not really educated" for supporting #HongKong. All he cares about is money, not human rights. Hypocritical."
Morey's tweet prompted a crisis for the NBA with its most critical overseas partners. Basketball is hugely popular among China's masses, but the country's leaders angrily removed broadcasts from state TV, and Commissioner Adam Silver later acknowledged the falling out had cost the league hundreds of millions.
James appeared to disagree with Morey's sentiment, saying he was "misinformed" and suggesting that the remark could have compromised the safety of NBA players who were in China at the time for exhibition games.
The political timing was fraught, as well, with the US and China engaged in yearslong trade discussions. President Trump had campaigned on reversing what he characterized as lopsided trade agreements with China, and he spoke about it regularly on social media throughout the talks.
Meanwhile, American authorities' treatment of domestic protesters amid a wave of civil unrest after the death of George Floyd has come into sharp contrast with their stated support for the so-called pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, who often engage in violent altercations with police.
Wong and his group have long enjoyed the rhetorical and legislative support of conservative anti-China hardliners in the US, including Trump and Senators Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton, among others.
Cotton recently wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times calling for the deployment of US troops in areas seeing unrest. The article prompted huge backlash from readers and led to the resignation of the Opinion section editor.