FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 20 OCTOBER 2021
NEW YORK CITY, October 20th—Today at 12:59PM EST, Enes Kanter, an NBA player with the Boston Celtics, tweeted a powerful video statement in support of the Tibetan people and their struggle for human rights and freedom from Chinese rule. In a two minute and 46 second video statement, Kanter condemned China’s repression in Tibet, called for Tibet’s independence, and directly called on Chinese President Xi Jinping to “free Tibet.” His statement comes one day after meeting with members of Students for a Free Tibet and the Tibetan community at the Tibetan Community Center in Queens, New York.
In his statement Kanter said: “My message to the Chinese government is Free Tibet! Tibet belongs to Tibetans. I’m here to add my voice and speak out about what is happening in Tibet under the Chinese government’s brutal rule. Tibetan people’s basic rights and freedoms are nonexistent. They are not allowed to study and learn their language and culture freely. They are not allowed to travel freely. They are not allowed to access information freely. The Tibetan people are not even allowed to worship freely.”
On October 19th, the night before releasing his video statement on Twitter, Kanter met with members of Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) and the Tibetan community at the Tibetan Community Center in Queens, New York. While there he heard from Tibetan human rights defenders, including Nyima Lhamo, a recent escapee from Tibet whose uncle, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, was a well-known Tibetan political prisoner who died while in Chinese custody in 2015. At the meeting, Lobsang Tseten, SFT’s Campaigns Associate, and Kanter discussed the parallels between Enes’ inability to return to Turkey because he would face political persecution, and the situation of most Tibetans in exile who cannot risk returning to Tibet.
Kanter’s statement marks the first time an NBA player has directly spoken out against China’s occupation of Tibet and is sure to spark a strong response from the Chinese authorities, as well as controversy for the league, given the NBA’s popularity in China.
Lobsang Tseten, Campaigns Associate at Students for Free Tibet, said of his meeting with Kanter:
“I was deeply moved by Enes Kanter’s desire to understand and learn more about the Tibetan people’s decades-long struggle for freedom. China has imposed an information blackout on Tibet and Kanter’s exceptionally powerful statement in support of Tibetan independence will help bring the Sino-Tibetan conflict back into the spotlight. Unfortunately, gaining and maintaining access to the vast Chinese marketplace means it is exceedingly rare for professional athletes to speak out against China’s human rights abuses and occupation of Tibet. I believe Kanter’s words will show other athletes around the world that speaking out for human rights and freedom should always come first before business and profit.”
Pema Doma, Campaigns Director at Students for a Free Tibet, said:
“As a Tibetan-American and a lifelong Boston Celtics fan, Kanter’s statement of support for Tibetan freedom is unbelievably moving and I’m sure will be a huge source of inspiration for all Tibetans and people suffering under Beijing’s brutal rule. I hope Enes Kanter’s remarkable stand and statement of support for a free Tibet will spark other athletes to find their courage and speak out against China’s terrible record of repression, including the Uyghur genocide, crushing of democracy and rights in Hong Kong and persecution of Chinese rights advocates.”