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Silicon Valley billionaire Golden State Warriors Chamath Palihapitiya cowardly Uyghur Muslims

A venture capitalist whose fund’s mission is ‘to advance humanity by solving the world’s hardest problems’ has said he doesn’t care about the human rights abuses facing China’s Uyghur population.

Chamath Palihapitiya, who is worth $1.2billion and owns a minority stake in the NBA‘s Golden State Warriors basketball team, worked at Facebook before his departure in 2011 to set up his venture capital fund, Social Capital, which made $1.7billion in 2019.

But the 45 year-old Sri Lankan-born billionaire is now is coming under fire for stating bluntly how he does not care how China‘s Uyghur Muslims have been abused.

His subsequent apology via a tweet was also roundly attacked after with critics deeming it mealy-mouthed. The Golden State Warriors also distanced themselves from Palihapitiya in a statement which didn’t mention the Uyghurs.

That sparked yet more criticism that the NBA is concerned about kotowing to China rather than stand up to human rights’ abuses. 

Human Rights Watch estimates that Chinese authorities have detained as many as one million Uyghur Muslims in ‘re-education’ camps where they have been subjected to human-rights abuses including slave labor, rape and forced sterilizations. 

Palihapitiya – whose firm Social Capital channels some of its investments into healthcare projects – made the comments while speaking on an episode of his technology podcast, All-In.

‘Nobody cares about it, nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs,’ the Silicon Valley billionaire said. 

When challenged by his co-hosts about his statement, Palihapitiya, who split from his wife Brigette Lau in 2018, only dug in further. 

Silicon Valley billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya has said he doesn’t care about China’s human rights abuses of Uyghur Muslims in the country

Chamath Palihapitiya (center) attends a Golden State Warriors game with wife Brigette Lau and friends in April 2016. He is said to own around 10 percent of the team

Chamath Palihapitiya (center) attends a Golden State Warriors game with wife Brigette Lau and friends in April 2016. He is said to own around 10 percent of the team

How Palihapitiya left Sri Lanka for Canada

At the age of five, Palihapitiya and his family fled Sri Lanka and moved to Canada.

His father had worked as an official with the Sri Lankan High Commission posted to Ottawa.

However, because of his father’s outspoken nature, Palihapitiya and his family had to leave Sri Lanka over fears caused by the erupting civil war.

After moving to Canada, his father was frequently unemployed, while his mother worked low-paying gigs to make ends meet.

Palihapitiya also worked at Burger King while at school to help keep the family going.

‘Nobody cares about it, nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs,’ he insisted. ‘Of all the things I care about it is below my line.’ 

‘You bring it up because you really care, and I think that’s nice that you care, the rest of us don’t care,’ he told fellow host Jason Calacanis. 

‘It’s a hard ugly truth that registers below my line. I care about the fact that our economy could turn on a dime if China invades Taiwan. I care about climate change. I care about America’s decrepit healthcare infrastructure, but if you’re asking me if I care about a segment of a class of people in another country, not until we can take care of ourselves will I prioritize them.

‘I think a lot of people believe that and I’m sorry if that’s a hard truth to hear but every time I say that I’m caring about the Uyghurs I’m really just lying if I don’t really care, so I’d rather not lie to you and tell you the truth. It’s not a priority for me.’

But Palihapitiya wasn’t finished as he continued with his rant: ‘Until we actually clean up our own house, the idea that we step outside of our borders with us sort of like morally virtue signaling about somebody else’s human rights track record is deplorable,’ Palihapitiya said.

‘Human rights in the US is way more important to me than human rights anywhere else on the globe,’ said Palihapitiya, who was born in Sri Lanka, adding that he felt a  responsibility to fix the issues of his adopted country. 

His comments were quickly seized upon, leading to Palihapitiya to put a statement online in a desperate attempt to clarify his comments saying he recognized that he came across as ‘lacking empathy.’ 

‘Important issues deserve nuanced discussions. Some clarifying comments,’ he tweeted. 

Palihapitiya had three children with his first wife Brigette Lau, before the pair divorced in 2018. He is now dating Italian pharmaceutical heiress, model, and CEO of Dompe Holdings, Nathalie Dompe - with whom he has had a child. Pictured: Palihapitiya with Dompe on December 10, 2018, at the Third Annual Berggruen Prize Gala at the New York Public Library

Palihapitiya had three children with his first wife Brigette Lau, before the pair divorced in 2018. He is now dating Italian pharmaceutical heiress, model, and CEO of Dompe Holdings, Nathalie Dompe – with whom he has had a child. Pictured: Palihapitiya with Dompe on December 10, 2018, at the Third Annual Berggruen Prize Gala at the New York Public Library

Palihapitiya then attempted to walk back the remarks but was then further criticized for 'lacking empathy'

Palihapitiya then attempted to walk back the remarks but was then further criticized for ‘lacking empathy’

'Nobody cares about it, nobody cares about what's happening to the Uyghurs,' he said during his podcast. Palihapitiya went on to clarify his view in detail

‘Nobody cares about it, nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs,’ he said during his podcast. Palihapitiya went on to clarify his view in detail

Palihapitiya, a venture capitalist and is co-owner of the Warriors and owns 10 percent of the San Francisco basketball team

Palihapitiya, a venture capitalist and is co-owner of the Warriors and owns 10 percent of the San Francisco basketball team 

‘In re-listening to this week’s podcast, I recognize that I come across as lacking empathy. I acknowledge that entirely. As a refugee, my family fled a country with its own set of human rights issues so this is something that is very much a part of my lived experience. To be clear, my belief is that human rights matter, whether in China, the United States, or elsewhere. Full stop,’ he wrote.

Neither his original comments nor his follow-up statement – which was accused of sounding like it had been written by a PR representative – sat will with users on Twitter.  

‘The sad part is this took 10 hours and tens of thousands of $$ in crisis comms to help write,’ said Matt Gormon in response to the statement. 

‘Wow, @Chamarth dumping his pro-genocide statement faster than he sells out of his SPACs,’ wrote business journalist Ed Carson.

‘Absolutely lacks empathy, and involving the most intense mental gymnastics too,’ tweeted author Rebecca Downs.

‘Say Uyghurs, you whatabouting coward,’ demanded Noah Blum. 

‘What a pathetic attempt at … not even sure what you’re trying to do, given the video,’ another Twitter user wrote.  

Silicon Valley billionaire Golden State Warriors Chamath Palihapitiya cowardly Uyghur Muslims

Silicon Valley billionaire Golden State Warriors Chamath Palihapitiya cowardly Uyghur Muslims

Silicon Valley billionaire Golden State Warriors Chamath Palihapitiya cowardly Uyghur Muslims

Silicon Valley billionaire Golden State Warriors Chamath Palihapitiya cowardly Uyghur Muslims

Silicon Valley billionaire Golden State Warriors Chamath Palihapitiya cowardly Uyghur Muslims

Neither his original comments nor his follow-up statement sat will with users on Twitter

Neither his original comments nor his follow-up statement sat will with users on Twitter

The San Francisco basketball team, of which Palihapitiya owns 10 percent having invested $25 million in 2010, issued their own statement in response to their co-owner's comments

The San Francisco basketball team, of which Palihapitiya owns 10 percent having invested $25 million in 2010, issued their own statement in response to their co-owner’s comments

The San Francisco basketball team, of which Palihapitiya owns 10 percent having invested $25 million in 2010, issued their own statement in response to their co-owner’s comments, distancing themselves from him.

‘As a limited investor who has no day-to-day operating functions with the Warriors, Mr. Palihapitiya does not speak on behalf of our franchise, and his views certainly don’t reflect those of our organization,’ the statement read. 

Palihapitiya who is currently the founder and CEO of Social Capital, which specializes in technology startups, providing seed funding, venture capital and private equity.

The firm has a focus on healthcare investments, as well as the education, financial services, and technology sectors 

Estimated to have a net worth of $1.2billion, Palihapitiya began his career working at Burger King before graduating from Lisgar Collegiate Institute at the age of 17.

Palihapitiya earned a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Waterloo and began his career as a derivatives trader with BMO Nesbitt Burns.

He moved to Silicon Valley in 2004, becoming a vice president of AOL – the youngest person to ever earn this role in the history of the company. 

Palihapitiya was also an early executive at Facebook, working at the company between 2007 and 2011.

It was after this stint that he set up the Social+Capital Partnership – later Social Capital – which has allowed him to invest in a number of companies.

These include Slack; Glooko, Inc; Yammer; Second Market and Box. 

In 2019, Palihapitiya helped take Virgin Galactic public later selling his personal stake in Virgin Galactic for around US$213 million. He continues to serve as Chairman of Virgin Galactic’s Board of Directors, although a petition has been launched advocating for his removal. 

Palihapitiya had three children with his first wife Brigette Lau, before the pair divorced in 2018.

He is now dating Italian pharmaceutical heiress, model, and CEO of Dompe Holdings, Nathalie Dompe – with whom he has had a child.  

In 2019, Palihapitiya helped take Virgin Galactic public later selling his personal stake Virgin Galactic for around US$213 million. He continues to serve as Chairman of Virgin Galactic’s Board of Directors and is pictured here with Virgin Galactic co-founder Sir Richard Branson

In 2019, Palihapitiya helped take Virgin Galactic public later selling his personal stake Virgin Galactic for around US$213 million. He continues to serve as Chairman of Virgin Galactic’s Board of Directors and is pictured here with Virgin Galactic co-founder Sir Richard Branson

Human Rights Watch estimates that Chinese authorities have detained as many as one million Uyghur Muslims in 're-education' camps where they have been subjected to human-rights abuses including slave labor, rape and forced sterilizations (file photo)

Human Rights Watch estimates that Chinese authorities have detained as many as one million Uyghur Muslims in ‘re-education’ camps where they have been subjected to human-rights abuses including slave labor, rape and forced sterilizations (file photo)

The Biden administration has described the abuse of Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities in the region as ‘widespread, state-sponsored forced labor’ and ‘mass detention.’

Last month, the White House announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, citing ‘ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses.’ 

Biden also signed a bill that banned the importing of goods from the Xinjiang region of China unless it could be proven they were not produced with forced labor. 

China denies all allegations of abuse against its Uyghur population. 

The NBA’s standing in China, which has been its most important overseas market, deteriorated sharply after late 2019 when then-Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey expressed support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and Beijing’s state television pulled NBA games off its channels.

The team was dropped by the Chinese streaming giant Tencent and also ended live broadcasts of the Philadelphia 76ers games when Morey switched franchises.  

Anti-NBA protests followed in both mainland China, where fans took aim at LeBron James, and among Hong Kong protesters. 

In the US, Chinese-American fans began wearing pro-Hong Kong apparel to preseason games while protesting the regime in Beijing. Similarly, the anti-Beijing protestors in Hong Kong also took aim at James, using his image in memes and burning his jersey. 

In the end, the NBA lost about $400 million in Chinese business, according to league commissioner Adam Silver, and faced criticism in the US for its perceived kowtowing to the communist regime.  

Morey was never punished by the NBA.  

Center for the Boston Celtics, Enes Kanter, criticized the Chinese government over its treatment of the Uyghur people.  

Last month, the White House announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, citing 'ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses.'

Last month, the White House announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, citing ‘ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses.’

How NBA and Hollywood kowtow to China’s demands despite Communist regime’s human rights abuses

The NBA’s push to expand into the Chinese market has created a public relations nightmare for the league.

In June 2020, a US congressional congressman called NBA stars to end endorsements of Chinese sportswear firms as they had used cotton grown in the Xinjiang region, where the internment camps were held. In a letter to the players’ union, the bipartisan commission on China claimed that there was evidence that forced labor had been used in the region’s cotton production. Dozens of NBA players such as Dwyane Wade, Klay Thompson and Dwight Howard had deals with China-based firms ANTA, Li-Ning, and Peak. 

Also in 2020, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey stepped down after he sparked an international controversy for tweeting his support of anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong. 

In response, China banned the NBA from state television for one year and anti-NBA protests took place in mainland China. Morey deleted his tweet shortly after posting it, and in a statement, the NBA called the incident ‘regrettable,’ but the longtime NBA executive was never punished, nor did the league offer an apology to China. 

NBA stars such as LeBron James took aim at Morey for tweeting his stance.

Posters show Lebron James embracing a Chinese 100-yuan banknote as protesters gather at the Southern Playground in support of NBA's Houston Rockets' team general manager Daryl Morey, who sent a tweet backing the pro-democracy movement in 2019 in Hong Kong, China

Posters show Lebron James embracing a Chinese 100-yuan banknote as protesters gather at the Southern Playground in support of NBA’s Houston Rockets’ team general manager Daryl Morey, who sent a tweet backing the pro-democracy movement in 2019 in Hong Kong, China

Retired NBA star Dwyane Wade and wife Gabrielle Union attend the Li-Ning Menswear Fall/Winter 2020-2021 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on January 18, 2020 in Paris

Retired NBA star Dwyane Wade and wife Gabrielle Union attend the Li-Ning Menswear Fall/Winter 2020-2021 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on January 18, 2020 in Paris

‘I’m not here to judge how the league handled the situation,’ James said last July. I just think that, when you’re misinformed or you’re not educated about something – and I’m just talking about the tweet itself – you never know the ramifications that can happen.’

‘We all see what that did, not only did for our league but for all of us in America, for people in China as well. Sometimes you have to think through the things that you say that may cause harm not only for yourself but for the majority of people. I think that’s just a prime example of that.’

In the end, the NBA lost about $400 million in Chinese business, according to league commissioner Adam Silver, and faced criticism in the US for its perceived kowtowing to the communist regime. 

In July 2020 the NBA said it was re-evaluating its training program in China following allegations of abuse of young players by local staff and harassment of foreign staffers at a facility in Xinjiang.

The NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, subsequently said in September that the NBA’s long-standing engagement in China continued to have a ‘net positive’ impact on the mutual understanding between the United States and the Communist nation.

Last June a U.S. congressional commission called on American basketball stars to end endorsements of Chinese sportswear firms that use cotton grown in China’s Xinjiang region, warning against complicity in forced labor they say takes place there.

In a letter to the National Basketball Players Association, the chairs of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China said more than a dozen NBA players had deals with the China-based ANTA, Li-Ning and Peak sportswear firms prior to the publication of recent Western media articles saying the companies had proclaimed continued use of Xinjiang cotton.

Retired NBA All-Star Dwyane Wade has a lifetime deal with Li-Ning, while injured Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson has a contract with ANTA.

‘Players have continued to sign new deals with Anta Sports,’ the letter from Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Jim McGovern added.

‘We believe that commercial relationships with companies that source cotton in Xinjiang create reputational risks for NBA players and the NBA itself,’ they said, noting that the U.S. government had determined that the Chinese government was committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and barred imports of cotton from the region.

‘The NBA and NBA players should not even implicitly be endorsing such horrific human rights abuses,’ the letter said.

The commission said reporting since 2018 had revealed that authorities in Xinjiang had systematically forced minority Muslims to engage in forced labor and there was credible evidence that forced labor existed in Xinjiang cotton production.  

Klay Thompson (left) of the Golden State Warriors meets fans during an Anta promotional event on September 8, 2019 in Nanjing

Klay Thompson (left) of the Golden State Warriors meets fans during an Anta promotional event on September 8, 2019 in Nanjing

Meanwhile, The American film industry has gone to great lengths to ensure its relationship with China as the country has poured money into Hollywood’s struggling film studios over the years. 

However, the Chinese have been quick to censor American media that may be viewed as offensive in terms of content as well as how the country is being portrayed. US studios have consulted Chinese ‘taste experts’ to ensure that they get it right. Some examples of this practice include:

-The 2020 remake of the 1998 animated Disney classic Mulan saw the filmmakers thank eight government departments in the province of Xinjiang, where the internment camps were. The film was also criticized for portraying the villains as a clan of assassins with dark skins and turbans as it would remind Chinese audiences of the Uighur population.

-The 1986 film Top Gun edited out the Japanese and Taiwan flags on Tom Cruises’s bomber jacket to offend offending Chinese audiences.

-The 2016 film Doctor Stranger cast Anglo-British actor Tilda Swinton as a Celtic monk, in favor of a Tibetan one, to avoid creating an offensive stereotype

-The 2013 film Iron Man saw scenes added with Chinese doctors frantically trying to save the life of the superhero played by Robert Downey Jr. 

LGBTQ content was also removed from films such as Bohemian Rhapsody, Star Trek: Beyond, Alien: Covenant and Cloud Atlas. Scenes with Chinese people getting killed was also cut out of Skyfall and Mission: Impossible 

Major studios in Hollywood now live in dread of offending China. Disney, Hollywood’s biggest film studio, is today squirming over its own embarrassing kowtowing to China with its new blockbuster Mulan

Major studios in Hollywood now live in dread of offending China. Disney, Hollywood’s biggest film studio, is today squirming over its own embarrassing kowtowing to China with its new blockbuster Mulan 

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