Rockets fan arrested in China after allegedly threatening to burn flag: report

Rockets fan arrested in China after allegedly threatening to burn flag: report
© Getty Images

A fan of the Houston Rockets was reportedly arrested in China after he allegedly threatened to burn the Chinese flag.

The 25-year-old fan allegedly made the threats and taunted police to "come and arrest him" on messaging platform Weibo, which is China’s equivalent to Twitter, according to CNN.

Chinese authorities say they arrested Howard Wang for publishing "insults directed against the national flag.” Police say Wang’s case is currently under investigation.

ADVERTISEMENT

In China, it is illegal to desecrate the flag and those who do can face up to 3 years in prison, CNN noted.

Wang’s message went out Sunday, just a few days after Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey sparked a firestorm with a since-deleted tweet supporting protests in Hong Kong that have gone on for months.

Morey quickly deleted the tweet and later apologized for it, though not before some of the NBA’s business partners in China decided to sever ties with the league. Chinese Central Television refused to show a Rockets preseason game.

The NBA responded by apologizing and saying that Morey's views did not represent the entire league, which has angered lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who believe the league was worried too much about profits and growing its brand in China.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued a follow-up statement Tuesday that addressed the league’s initial response and attempted to assuage concerns over the league’s handling of players' and management’s freedom of expression.

"It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences," Silver said in the statement.

"However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way."

The controversy is all the more troubling for the Rockets, one of the NBA’s most popular franchises in China thanks in part to Yao Ming, who played for the Rockets for nearly a decade and is now chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association.

In a photo, Wang is holding the Chinese flag and a lighter and can be seen wearing a Rockets jersey along with a mask and a patch over one eye, both common symbols among the protesters who have been gathering in the streets of Hong Kong for months.