BEIJING — Former NBA star Jeremy Lin, who plays for a Chinese team, has been fined $1,400 for “inappropriate comments” on social media about quarantine facilities before a game, China’s professional league said on Friday the government is attempting to quell protests over anti-virus controls that are among the strictest in the world.
Also on Friday, more cities eased restrictions, allowing malls, supermarkets and other businesses to reopen after protests last weekend in Shanghai and other areas, where some crowds called for President Xi Jinping to resign. Northwestern Urumqi, site of a deadly fire that sparked the protests, announced the reopening of supermarkets and other businesses.
Lin, who plays for Loong Lions Basketball Club, made “inappropriate remarks about facilities related to quarantine hotels” where the team stayed before a game on Wednesday, the China Basketball Association said. It said it had “adverse effects on the league and the competitive arena.”
The ruling Communist Party is trying to smash criticism of the human cost and disruption of its “zero-COVID” strategy that has tied millions to their homes. Protesters were arrested and photos and videos of events were deleted from Chinese social media. Police swarmed into Shanghai, Beijing and other cities to prevent further protests.
The CBA did not provide details on Lin’s comments, and there was no sign of it on his account on the popular Sina Weibo platform.
Shanghai news agency The Paper reported that Lin posted a video ahead of next week’s games complaining about training facilities at hotels in the city of Zhuji, south of Shanghai, in Zhejiang province.
“Can you believe this is a weight room?” Lin was quoted as saying. “What is this garbage?” The newspaper said the video was deleted after “the situation was clarified” that the hotel was only required by regulations for a short stay.
A representative from Vision China Entertainment, who says on its website that he represents Lin, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Phone calls to the Loong Lions Basketball Club headquarters in the southern city of Guangzhou went unanswered.
Born in California to Taiwanese parents, Lin was the first NBA player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent.
He played for the California 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 in 2019 with the Toronto Raptors. He played for the Beijing Ducks in 2019 before joining the Loong Lions.
There were no signs of further protests on Friday.
The government reported 34,980 infections detected in the past 24 hours, including 30,702 with no symptoms.
China’s case numbers are low, but “zero COVID” aims to isolate every infected person. This has prompted local officials to block access to residential areas and close schools, shops and offices. Manufacturers, including the largest iPhone factory in central China, are using “closed-loop” management that requires employees to live incommunicado at their workplace.
Demonstrations erupted on November 25 after a fire at a residential building in Urumqi killed at least 10 people.
That sparked angry questions online about whether locked doors or other antivirus controls blocked firefighters or victims trying to escape. Authorities denied this, but the deaths became a focus of public frustration.
The Xi government has promised to reduce the cost and disruption of controls but says it will remain at “zero-COVID”. Health experts and economists predict it will remain in effect at least until mid-2023 and possibly 2024, while millions of older people are vaccinated in preparation for the lifting of controls keeping most visitors away from China.
Urumqi will “further step up efforts to resume production and trade” 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 resumed bus services and allowed restaurants and small businesses to reopen, according to state media. Jinzhou in the northeast lifted movement restrictions and allowed businesses to reopen.
On Thursday, the southern metropolis of Guangzhou, the biggest hotspot of the latest surge in infections, allowed supermarkets and restaurants to reopen.
Other major cities, including Shijiazhuang in the north and Chengdu in the southwest, resumed bus and subway service and allowed businesses to reopen.