A pro-China player on the Houston Rockets is known for his iconic beard, but for some of China’s oppressed people, sporting a similar style of facial hair would be illegal.
James Harden’s beard is so central to his image that many fans refer to him simply as “The Beard.”
Unfortunately for many of China’s Uighurs, an ethnic minority from a region in the northwest corner of the communist nation, a beard like Harden’s could attract unwanted government attention.
In 2017, a ban on “abnormally” long beards in the Xinjiang region was billed as an effort to combat terrorism, according to the BBC.
In reality, the restriction appears to serve as more of an attack against the ethnically and religiously distinct Uighurs’ identity.
A set of laws accompanying the beard ban also forces children to attend government schools, demands families abide by Chinese family planning policies and restricts religious weddings.
Because of the stark difference between the largely Muslim Uighurs and the Han Chinese, who make up 90 percent of the Chinese population, some within the minority group have been vocal about wanting their own nation formed from parts of China’s remote northwest territory.
But this dissension against the communist Chinese regime is met with shocking brutality.
Aside from throwing dissidents into detention camps or giving them lengthy prison sentences, a London-based tribunal has found that the Chinese government operates a forced organ-harvesting scheme against Uighurs and other minorities, according to Forbes.
Despite these horrifying details of barbaric treatment, Harden doesn’t seem to care.
The Chinese market contributes a substantial amount of money to the NBA, the Rockets and by extension, Harden himself.
In the ongoing NBA-China scandal, where Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet in support of pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters ignited a firestorm, the league and some of its players quickly took the side of the oppressive Chinese government.
Harden didn’t just apologize for Morey’s tweet, but heaped praise on the communist country:
Would Harden “love” the country if he were forced into a prison camp over his facial hair? Perhaps the government extracting a kidney or part of his liver might have a stronger impact on him?
Maybe, all the Chinese need to do to lose support from people like Harden is stop signing checks to the NBA.
Harden, like much of the league, is still refusing to back down from his positive comments about China.
The star player even essentially ignored a question about the debacle, choosing to sit in a cowardly silence that was caught on video.
Journalist gets quickly shut down when she asked James Harden, Russell Westbrook if they would refrain from speaking out on politics/social justice after China debacle… pic.twitter.com/VkXSWo0N0s
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) October 10, 2019
Star players like Harden are not afraid to take stances on social issues in our own country, regardless of who they might upset.
When it comes to a country like China that actually oppresses its people, however, they choose to stay silent.
If these men were brave enough to truly speak out against injustice, it’s clear that they would not be heaping praise on a country with a track record as horrific as China’s.
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