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How the NBA weathered outrage in China

An insight into how the NBA found itself in the middle of a conflict between China and Hong Kong.

In 1997, Britain handed over the sovereignty of Hong Kong back to Chinese rule after 156 years of ruling the region. Hong Kong was reestablished as a special administrative region of China and governed by the constitutional principle, "one country, two systems". This principle asserts that Hong Kong is a part of China, but allows the region to have a different economic, judicial and political system to the mainland. This has traditionally afforded Hong Kong citizens more rights and the region greater autonomy.

Since the late '90s, tension has arisen on multiple occasions between Hong Kong citizens and China, particularly due to the political, cultural and social differences.


In 2019, hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong citizens poured out onto the streets and protested against China's decision to introduce an extradition bill that would have allowed for criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China. Critics argued that the bill would undermine judicial independence and give China greater influence over Hong Kong.

Following weeks of protests, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam eventually said the bill would be scrapped. Whilst the bill was withdrawn, the clashes between protesters and police authorities were violent and resulted in thousands of injuries and arrests.

NBA influence

The NBA is one of the most lucrative professional leagues in the world, bringing in $7.4 billion in revenue during the 2017-18 season.

The NBA increased their efforts in the early 2000s to increase its influence in Asia and grow its global fanbase. Prominent Chinese basketballer Yao Ming's successful career had a phenomenal influence on the league's expansion in China.

The NBA took advantage of their growing presence in China by establishing a permanent office in Beijing, giving the NBA greater proximity to the fanbase. NBA China commercialises the assets of the NBA in the region through media distribution, merchandising and sponsorships.


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