The relationship between the Chinese government and the NBA has been tense ever since Rockets GM Daryl Morey expressed support for Hong Kong protestors. Following his comments, the Chinese Basketball Association announced it would end its cooperation with the Houston Rockets. The NBA also confirmed it had cut all media access for teams until the China trip is over. A report from The Athletic revealed that LeBron James and other players held a meeting to discuss their concerns over the situation.
"[Adam] Silver was said to be extremely thoughtful and transparent with Lakers and Nets players, coaches and executives present," Shams Charania said of the meeting the league commissioner organized with the Nets and the Lakers on Oct. 9. "He discussed that he believed players should face the media and support the league’s openness toward freedom of expression, wanting to open the room up for discussion and an open-minded approach toward the situation."
However, James believed that he and the rest of the players in China right now were unequipped to be dealing with the controversy. He reportedly expressed concern during a private players-only meeting that it was unfair for him or any other player to "bear that responsibility," especially due to its complicated nature. Kyrie Irving and Kyle Kuzma also attended this meeting and spoke about how they weren't comfortable addressing those questions right now.
On Oct. 10, the Chinese decided to cancel press conferences before or after the games. A day later, the NBA announced its decision to cancel all news conferences until further notice. The Hong Kong protests have been ongoing since March this year. Demonstrations started in response to a controversial bill that would allow local authorities to extradite fugitives to the mainland, prompting concerns over China undercutting the autonomy of Hong Kong.
Xi Jinping, leader of the Communist Party of China, recently responded to the ongoing turmoil in Hong Kong with a threat. "Anyone attempting to split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones," he said on Sunday. "Any external forces backing such attempts dividing China will be deemed by the Chinese people as pipe-dreaming." In a contrasting statement to Jinping's comments, Hong Kong delegate Bernard Chan recently explained that Beijing wants to avoid repeating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
However, the government still sees the Hong Kong protests as a threat to peace.