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NBA-China controversy comes to Vancouver, protest planned at preseason game

A pre-season game at Rogers Arena in Vancouver has attracted dozens of people calling for the return of the Vancouver Grizzlies, as well as protesters against the NBA's stance on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Sarah MacDonald reports.

The NBA is coming to Vancouver Thursday night, and so is the Hong Kong-China controversy that has dogged the league for more than a week.

Pro-Hong Kong demonstrators are vowing to make their presence known when Rogers Arena plays host to the LA Clippers and the Dallas Mavericks in a pre-season game.

Demonstrators who describe themselves as “group of concerned Canadians” say they plan to gather outside the stadium “to stand up for the values of basic human rights in the face of economic coercion and encroaching authoritarianism from the Chinese Communist Regime and to protest NBA’s inaction.”

READ MORE: LeBron James’ comment on China-Hong Kong conflict criticized by protesters

Protesters say they are also planning to attend the game, where they say they will stand in their seats, raise signs and chant slogans before the end of the first quarter.

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The NBA’s China troubles began when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey posted a tweet expressing support for protesters in Hong Kong, who have been taking to the streets for months in pro-democracy demonstrations.

That tweet complicated the NBA’s preseason China series, where Chinese officials and the NBA shut down pre-and-post game news conferences.

READ MORE: NBA-China series ends as Lakers, Nets head home after preseason games

Players and management have since been further drawn into the controversy, and critics have accused the league of deferring to China to protect its economic interests in the authoritarian country.

NBA commissioner says he’s not concerned about US-China trade war
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“The last few weeks have shown us that the battle for basic human rights is being fought not only in Hong Kong, but here at home as well,” said protesters in a media release.

“Though the NBA’s Commissioner Adam Silver has come out supporting free speech, none of their players, coaches or owners have defended [Rockets GM] Daryl Morey for standing up for the people of Hong Kong.”

READ MORE: Fans hold signs supporting Hong Kong at Wizards game during China-NBA spat

Protesters with T-shirts and signs supporting Hong Kong and Tibet appeared at a Washington Wizards preseason game last week, with security kicking several people out after they refused to give up their signs.

Rogers Arena’s conditions of admission and fan code of conduct prohibit “unauthorized signs or banners,” and require clothing, signs and banners to be “inoffensive.”

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A spokesperson for Canucks Sports and Entertainment said the arena was aware of the potential protest, and that it was gathering information and consulting with the NBA, which is leading the event.

A spokesperson for NBA Canada said the NBA would be adhering to Rogers Arena’s security policy.