Photo/IllutrationMost corporate sponsors advertisements were removed for a preseason NBA basketball game between Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers at the Mercedes Benz Arena in Shanghai, China, on Oct. 10. (AP Photo)

Most of the slogans being chanted by Hong Kong's pro-democracy demonstrators are in Chinese, but there are also some in English.

Among them is one that urges foreign nationals to support the citizens of Hong Kong: "Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong."

This obviously resonated with Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association (NBA) of the United States.

Morey posted an image of this slogan on his Twitter account on Oct. 4, only to immediately draw the ire of the Chinese government.

Even though Morey was merely expressing his personal opinion that was not even overly critical of Beijing, he was forced to delete the tweet.

The NBA issued an official statement that read, "We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable."

Even the powerful NBA obviously lost its nerve when confronted with the harsh demands of China, the mammoth market with hundreds of millions of viewers.

But this sort of ugly power play is unfolding on various other entrepreneurial fronts as well.

For instance, luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co. withdrew its ad when it came under fire from Chinese consumers. The ad in question showed a woman covering her right eye with her hand, and the image reportedly reminded the public of the “eye for an eye” gesture that anti-China protesters in Hong Kong adopted after a young woman suffered an eye injury during a clash with police in August.

In the case of the French international banking group BNP Paribas, a lawyer working for its Hong Kong office was forced to resign for mocking a pro-Beijing group on Facebook. The post outraged the Chinese government, according to a British daily.

In China, freedom of expression is suppressed and the people are under ruthless government surveillance. There is a growing sense of crisis among Hong Kong's pro-democracy citizens that this Chinese style of government is inexorably coming their way.

But come to think of it, the forfeiture of freedoms may well be a global trend that has already started to emerge, and it's only that the people of Hong Kong happen to be the first to feel it.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 11

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.