In a newly released interview, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) slammed the National Basketball Association, Apple, and Disney CEO Bob Iger over actions taken or remarks made in response to the pro-democracy protests that have roiled Hong Kong and frustrated China in recent months.
On Wednesday, Cruz criticized the NBA for “groveling in apology” to the Chinese, after Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted an image earlier this month that vowed support for protesters in Hong Kong and angered Chinese officials, threatening NBA broadcast rights in the country.
“It was not the NBA’s finest hour,” adds Cruz, who recently returned from a trip to Asia where he visited Japan, Taiwan, India, and Hong Kong. “Putting out one profuse apology after another.”
After the tweet, posted on Oct. 4, an initial statement from the NBA recognized the post had “deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.” But NBA Commissioner Adam Silver later took a stronger position, defending the right of NBA players, employees, and owners to speak freely.
“They have gotten better,” Cruz acknowledged, speaking to Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer on The Ticker. “I was pleased to see the commissioner, after the first prostrations, that they got better and they actually spoke out in support of free speech.”
‘Aid and abet oppression’
Cruz, who ran for president in 2016, expressed similar criticism of Apple (AAPL), citing the company’s removal of the Taiwanese flag emoji from its new operating system as well as a mapping app used by Hong Kong protesters.
“I don't think U.S. companies should be willing to aid and abet oppression and censorship by the communist government,” Cruz says.
Protests in Hong Kong began in June after Chief Executive Carrie Lam proposed plans to allow the Chinese government to extradite Hong Kong residents, a move perceived by some in the territory as an extension of repressive tactics deployed in mainland China. After months of protests, some involving millions, Lam withdrew the extradition bill last month.
Human rights advocates have raised concerns about China for decades, and recently over its reported detention of between 1 million and 2 million members of a Uighur Muslim minority, the country’s tech-equipped surveillance apparatus, and other issues.
‘A big mistake’
Not only did Cruz condemn companies that he thinks have actively facilitated the crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong, but also those that have failed to speak out against it.
On Tuesday, Disney CEO Bob Iger declined to comment on the Hong Kong protests, telling the Wall Street Journal “to take a position that could harm our company in some form would be a big mistake.”
Serwer asked Cruz whether Iger’s comments amounted to capitulation.
“Of course it is,” Cruz says. “I'm all for business pursuing opportunities, but not at the expense of free speech and our fundamental values.”
While Cruz has spoken strongly in condemnation of Chinese human rights violations, he has not taken every opportunity to follow through on the criticism. In January, Senator Marco Rubio (FL-R) introduced a bill that would direct U.S. government agencies to provide reports on the Chinese mass detention of Uighurs.
Forty-four senators have signed onto the bill, but Cruz is not among them.
Max Zahn is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Find him on twitter @MaxZahn_.