Ex-NBA star fined for comments on China’s COVID facilities
BEIJING (AP) — Former NBA star Jeremy Lin, who plays for a Chinese team, was fined 10,000 yuan ($1,400) for criticizing quarantine facilities, China’s professional league and a news report said Friday, as the government tries to stop protests against anti-virus controls that are among the world’s most stringent.
Also Friday, more cities eased restrictions, allowing shopping malls, supermarkets and other businesses to reopen following protests last weekend in Shanghai and other areas in which some crowds called for President Xi Jinping to resign. Urumqi in the northwest, site of a deadly fire that triggered the protests, announced supermarkets and other businesses were reopening.
The ruling Communist Party is trying to crush criticism of the human cost and disruption of its “zero COVID” strategy, which has confined millions of people to their homes. Protesters have been detained and photos and videos of events deleted from Chinese social media. Police fanned out across Shanghai, Beijing and other cities to try to prevent additional protests.
Lin, who plays for the Loong Lions Basketball Club, made “inappropriate remarks about quarantine hotel-related facilities” where the team stayed Wednesday ahead of a game, the China Basketball Association announced. It said that “caused adverse effects on the league and the competition area.”
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The association gave no details of Lin’s comments and there was no sign of them on his account on the popular Sina Weibo social media platform.
The Shanghai news outlet The Paper reported Lin posted a video complaining about hotel workout facilities ahead of games next week in Zhuji, a city south of Shanghai in Zhejiang province.
“Can you believe this is a weight room?” Lin was quoted as saying. “What kind of garbage is this?” The Paper said the video was deleted after “the situation was clarified” that the hotel was only for a brief stay required by regulations.
A representative of Vision China Entertainment, which says on its website it represents Lin, didn’t respond to a request for comment. Phone calls to Loong Lions headquarters in the southern city of Guangzhou weren’t answered.
Lin, born in California to parents from Taiwan, was the first American of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA.
Lin played for California’s Golden State Warriors in 2010 before joining the New York Knicks in the 2011-12 season. He became the first Asian American to win an NBA championship with the Toronto Raptors in 2019. He played for the Beijing Ducks in 2019 before joining the Loong Lions.
On Friday, there were no signs of more protests.
China’s case numbers are low, but “zero COVID” aims to isolate every infected person. That has led local officials to suspend access to neighborhoods and close schools, shops and offices. Manufacturers including the biggest iPhone factory use “closed-loop” management, which requires employees to live at their workplace without outside contact.
Residents of some areas complain that local officials, who are threatened with being fired if an outbreak occurs, impose excessive quarantines and other restrictions in response to a spike in infections that began in October.
The government reported 34,980 infections found in the past 24 hours, including 30,702 with no symptoms.
Demonstrations erupted Nov. 25 after a fire in an Urumqi apartment building killed at least 10 people.
That set off angry questions online about whether firefighters or victims trying to escape were blocked by locked doors or other anti-virus controls. Authorities denied that, but the deaths became a focus of public frustration.
Xi’s government has promised to reduce the cost and disruption of controls but says it will stick with “zero COVID.” Health experts and economists expect it to stay in place at least until mid-2023 and possibly into 2024 while millions of older people are vaccinated in preparation for lifting controls that keep most visitors out of China.
Urumqi will “increase efforts to resume production and commerce” by reopening hotels, restaurants, large supermarkets and ski resorts, the official newspaper Guangming Daily reported on its website, citing Sui Rong, a member of the Municipal Committee.
Elsewhere, the northern city of Hohhot in the Inner Mongolia region restarted bus service and allowed restaurants and small businesses to reopen, according to state media. Jinzhou in the northeast lifted curbs on movement and allowed businesses to reopen.
Tiajjin, a port east of Beijing, said subway riders no longer need to present negative virus tests. Fuzhou on the southeast coast said people who don’t go out no longer need to be tested.
On Thursday, the metropolis of Guangzhou in the south, the biggest hotspot in the latest infection spike, allowed supermarkets and restaurants to reopen.
Other major cities including Shijiazhuang in the north and Chengdu in the southwest restarted bus and subway service and allowed businesses to reopen.
The ruling party says it is trying to restrain local officials who are under pressure to prevent outbreaks while reopening businesses.
“Without approval, it is strictly forbidden to arbitrarily close schools and suspend classes, suspend work and production, block traffic or enforce isolation measures,” the ruling party newspaper People’s Daily said in an editorial.