Category "World"


Observers watching closely for Hong Kong protests at Vancouver NBA game

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A woman holds signs against Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and Hong Kong protests outside the Mercedes-Benz Arena before the NBA exhibition game between Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers in Shanghai, China on Oct. 10.


Next week’s pre-season game in Vancouver between the L.A. Clippers and the Dallas Mavericks could get caught up in the fracas between the NBA and China over the protests in Hong Kong.

There have been minor disruptions at two other North American pre-season games with fans being asked to leave and take down their signs in support of Hong Kong protesters. But Vancouver is one of a handful of cities, along with Sydney and Melbourne, that has become known for tense, physical and verbal confrontations between those for and those against Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests.

While there has been talk about the Vancouver NBA game on messaging app channels used by local organizers in support of the Hong Kong protests, nothing is being planned, said Kevin Huang, who has observed several of the clashes.

“It’s going to be interesting if one of the sides tries to take the agenda away from (the NBA). If the pro-Hong Kong side or the pro-mainland Chinese side says, ‘we’re going to make a big deal out of this,” could this heat up? It certainly could,” said Lindsay Meredith, a professor emeritus of marketing strategies for Simon Fraser University.

On Wednesday, security at a Washington Wizards pre-season game dealt with a fan who shouted, “Freedom of expression! Freedom of speech! Free Hong Kong,” according to Espn.com. Other fans in there handed out “Free Hong Kong” T-shirts. On Tuesday, in Philadelphia, two fans were asked to leave by the 76ers and the Wells Fargo Center for “continuing disruption of the fan experience” and after there had been multiple complaints and warnings.” Both of these pre-season games featured American teams playing a Guangzhou team from the Chinese Basketball Association.

Rogers Arena, like other venues, has a policy about signs and message, which says banners containing commercial or politically motivated, religious or obscene messages are not permitted.

There has been immense and emotional reaction from devoted fans, companies and government institutions in and outside of mainland China since a tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of the Hong Kong protests. It has included high-profile American politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ted Cruz who put aside partisan differences to jointly condemn the NBA for not standing up for free speech.

On Thursday, The New York Times reported that “after three days of fanning nationalist outrage, the Chinese government moved to tamp down public anger at the NBA as concerns spread in Beijing that the rhetoric was (spreading beyond basketball fans and) damaging China’s interests and image around the world.”

The flash points related to the Hong Kong protests has been tough for the biggest companies and organizations to navigate. They had already been trying to manage by saying as little as possible, but as the protests in Hong Kong more intensely divides people, there has been a shift.

“Their hands get forced if their employees or consumers or suppliers speak up,” said Meredith.

Even as many peaceful protesters continue to take to the streets of Hong Kong, there are also rioters firmly in the mix of beatings and shootings. The ensuing chaos and violence has both sides vehemently blaming each other.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that some NBA fans in China are asking for subscription refunds from Chinese tech giant Tencent Holdings, which has rights to stream U.S. games in China and said it would suspend showing them.

A Chinese flag is seen placed on basketballs in the NBA flagship retail store in Beijing, China. The NBA is trying to salvage its brand in China amid criticism of its handling of a controversial tweet that infuriated the government and has jeopardized the league’s Chinese expansion. The crisis, triggered by a Houston Rockets executives tweet that praised protests in Hong Kong, prompted the Chinese Basketball Association to suspend its partnership with the league. The backlash continued with state-owned television CCTV scrapping its plans to broadcast pre-season games in Shanghai and Shenzhen, and the cancellation of other promotional fan events. The league issued an apology, though NBA Commissioner Adam Silver angered Chinese officials further when he defended the right of players and team executives to free speech. China represents a lucrative market for the NBA, which stands to lose millions of dollars in revenue and threatens to alienate Chinese fans. Many have taken to Chinas social media platforms to express their outrage and disappointment that the NBA would question the country’s sovereignty over Hong Kong which has been mired in anti-government protests since June.

Kevin Frayer /

Getty Images

A small group of employees at online game publisher Activision Blizzard’s main campus in Irvine, California staged a walkout after the company banned Hearthstone player Chung Ng Wai from its league for a year and took back his earnings. The Hong Kong-based player was punished for shouting, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” during an interview about his tournament success.

Tiffany & Co., the U.S. jewelry brand, on Wednesday deleted a tweet showing a model wearing a diamond ring on her right hand and using it to cover her right eye after mainland Chinese consumers accused it of being in solidarity with the view of Hong Kong demonstrators who had been using the same pose to call for inquiries into police violence.

Also on Wednesday, after Apple was criticized by Chinese-state media for a mapping app in its app store that allowed Hong Kong protesters to track the movement of police, the American tech giant removed the app from its store.

Meredith said companies have different market segments. When two of these segments involve people deeply opposed over Hong Kong and pleasing one means losing the other, the solution has sometimes been to choose the one with the greater financial potential, Meredith said. But this calculation is fraught with risk when “global product suppliers” find their future and traditional markets pitted directly against each other.

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B.C. wants to be part of global resolution in opioid company bankruptcy claim

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Oxycodone tablets and pills

BackyardProduction / Getty Images/iStockphoto

The British Columbia government says any proposed settlement from opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma needs to include Canadian claims for the devastation created by the overdose crisis.

Purdue, the maker of the pain drug OxyContin, filed for bankruptcy in the United States and proposed a multibillion-dollar plan to settle with thousands of state and local governments.

B.C. Attorney General David Eby says the province has been monitoring the developments including a tentative agreement that proposes to resolve the claims as part of a global resolution.

Eby says the province remains “ready and willing” to participate in the effort to achieve the resolution but if B.C. is not included in the process then the government will to continue its lawsuit that names Purdue and several other opioid makers.

The province filed a proposed class-action lawsuit a year ago alleging drug manufactures falsely marketed opioids as less addictive than other pain medicines, triggering an overdose crisis that has killed thousands.

Eby says if the company wants to achieve a global resolution then any proposed agreement needs to account for payment to Canadian claims.


Daphne Bramham: Decriminalization alone won’t end B.C.’s overdose crisis

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A man injects drugs in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019. Despite significant efforts to combat overdose deaths in British Columbia, the provincial coroner says illicit drug overdose deaths increased to 1,489, just over the 2017 death total.


The problem with the provincial health officer’s special report recommending decriminalization of all illicit drug users  is that Dr. Bonnie Henry chose to make that her only recommendation.

Three years after a public health emergency was declared because of an epidemic of deaths from illicit opioids, B.C. still has no comprehensive addictions strategy.

It has a stunning lack of treatment services, no universal access to services, no simple pathway to what few services there are, no provincial standards or regulation of privately operated treatment and recovery homes services.

Government ministries such as health, mental health and addictions services, social development and housing remain siloed and the root causes of addiction remain largely unaddressed.

While there has been substantial investment in harm-reduction measures including overdose prevention sites, free naloxone kits (to reverse an opioid overdose), low-barrier shelters and poverty reduction, the needs are greater.

Overdose deaths have only hit a plateau – not dropped. Every day, four people British Columbians die.

Yet, Henry is adamant that decriminalization is the most important next step.

“It’s about a focus and an intent,” she said. “Instead of police focusing on requirement of the Criminal Code, it builds off-ramps to connect with services. And, that in itself, ensures those systems are built.”

The majority of those who have died of overdoses were young men using alone at home. Without fear of being arrested and with the stigma of addiction being reduced, the expectation is that addicts or recreational users would be more likely to go to a supervised injection site, use with a friend (with a naloxone kit at the ready) or call for help if they overdose.

Henry calls decriminalization “a necessary next step to stop the death toll from rising and to make harm-reduction services more readily available.”

But it’s a question whether those recreational users would do that, because many addicts say that they use alone for a variety of reasons — not least of which is that they don’t want to share their drugs or they don’t want anyone to know what they do when they’re high.

The report recommended two options for British Columbia to work around the Criminal Code provisions.

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth firmly and quickly said no to both. But he noted there are pilot projects in Vancouver, Abbotsford and Vernon where rather than charging for possession, police are linking users with services. An evaluation of those will be completed in the fall and, depending on the results, they may be expended to other communities.

Henry makes no secret of the fact that her ultimate goals for Canada are full legalization and regulation of all drugs to ensure that there is a safe supply. If that were to happen, Canada would be the first in the world to do that.

Portugal is mentioned frequently in the report and by Henry. Possession for personal use was decriminalized more than 20 years ago. But it was done only as part of a comprehensive, drug strategy.

Police still arrest anyone found with illicit drugs. They are taken to a police station where the drugs are weighed. If the amount is above the maximum limit set for personal use, they are charged and go through the criminal justice system.

If the amount is below the limit, tickets are issued and users told to appear at the Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Use within 24 hours. There, they meet with a social worker or counsellor before going before a three-person tribunal, which recommends a plan for treatment.

People don’t have to comply. But if they are arrested again, the commission can impose community service, require that they seek treatment, impose fines and even confiscate people’s property to pay those fines.

That’s not the kind of decriminalization Henry is recommending. Instead, the onus here would be on police officers – not trained addictions specialists, psychologists or social workers — to connect users with services.

Part of the reason for the difference is that Portugal’s goal wasn’t legalization or keeping addicts alive until they chose to go treatment. Its focus was and is on getting addicts into treatment and recovery so they could resume their place in society.

Harm reduction is only a small part of the Portuguese plan. Its first supervised injection site has only recently opened. But there is free and easy access to methadone (which dampens heroin addicts’ craving for the drug) and free needles to stop the spread of infection.

These harm reduction measures are deemed to temporary bridges to abstinence for all but older, hardcore, long-term heroin users rather than long-term solutions. Of course, fentanyl and carfentanil have yet to be found in its illicit drug supply.

Its treatment services as extensive and include everything from outpatient treatment to three years’ residency in a therapeutic community during which time the users’ families are provided with income supplements.

Nothing in this decriminalization report moves British Columbia anywhere close to that kind of comprehensive system. And until we get there, it’s hard to imagine that this overdose crisis ending anytime soon.

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Twitter: @bramham_daphne

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