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Hong Kong Protests Put N.B.A. on Edge in China


Gap was forced to apologize in 2017 after selling a shirt that featured a map of China that did not include Taiwan, a self-governing island off its southern coast. The Marriott International hotel chain apologized in January 2018 for listing Tibet, a region of western China, and Taiwan as countries in a customer survey.

In February 2018, the German automaker Daimler apologized for using a quotation from the Dalai Lama, who is widely viewed as a Tibetan separatist in China, in a social media post from its Mercedes-Benz brand.

In March 2018, China demanded that international airlines refer to Taiwan as part of China in their online booking systems, a request mocked by the White House as “Orwellian nonsense” but eventually obeyed by all major carriers.

Movie studios frequently find themselves at odds with state censors in a country where notions of free expression do not apply but billions of dollars ride on international success.

Disney, which has been more successful at navigating these waters than any other American entertainment company, is now in the position of promoting the live-action adaptation of “Mulan” after Crystal Yifei Liu, its Chinese-American star, prompted dueling backlash in the United States and China by supporting a crackdown on protesters by Hong Kong police.

Disney, which had no comment, has inched forward in its positioning in China for decades, leading to the opening of Shanghai Disneyland in 2016 and spectacular results for films like the recent “Avengers: Endgame,” which took in $858 million in the United States and $614 million in China earlier this year. Last year, Chinese moviegoers bought an estimated $8.87 billion in movie tickets, up 9 percent from a year earlier, according to box office analysts.

For its part, the N.B.A. has weathered outrage in China before. Last year, J.J. Redick, then of the Philadelphia 76ers, recorded a video for the Chinese New Year in which he appeared to use a racial slur for Chinese people, which he later said was an unintentional verbal slip. He apologized, but was roundly booed when he touched the ball during preseason games in Shanghai and Shenzhen.

Claire Fu, Sopan Deb, Julie Creswell and Brooks Barnes contributed reporting.


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