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Cuban Exile Group Supports Hong Kong Protesters at Miami Heat Game

At Sunday's Miami Heat game against the Houston Rockets, a group of demonstrators with the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation showed support of Hong Kong protesters.
At Sunday's Miami Heat game against the Houston Rockets, a group of demonstrators with the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation showed support of Hong Kong protesters. Photo by the Cuban American National Foundation
click to enlarge At Sunday's Miami Heat game against the Houston Rockets, a group of demonstrators with the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation showed support of Hong Kong protesters. - PHOTO BY THE CUBAN AMERICAN NATIONAL FOUNDATION
At Sunday's Miami Heat game against the Houston Rockets, a group of demonstrators with the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation showed support of Hong Kong protesters.
Photo by the Cuban American National Foundation
While fans cheered the Miami Heat during yesterday's home game against the Houston Rockets, a group of demonstrators filled three rows inside the American Airlines Arena in support of Hong Kong protesters and their demands for democracy.

Dozens of members and supporters of the Miami-based Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), a Cuban exile organization, wore bright-yellow shirts reading, "Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong," and chanted "Let's go, Heat. Hong Kong free."

"Hong Kong is fighting against China and the efforts of the Communist Party," says Omar Lopez, CANF's director of human rights. "They’re demanding liberty and independence. That's what we want in Cuba. Our objectives are similar. We wanted to show support."

The unrest in Hong Kong has entered its fifth month. The mass protests began in June following the proposal of a now-withdrawn bill that would allow for extraditions to mainland China. Protesters feared the government in Beijing would use the bill to arrest political dissidents and erode Hong Kong's judicial freedom. Hong Kong was a British colony before it was transferred to China in 1997. Since then, NPR reported, China has sought greater control of Hong Kong.

Lopez says the demonstration at the Miami Heat game was also in response to the backlash against Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey after he tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters last month. The tweet, which read, "Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong," was deleted shortly after it was posted October 4. Morey later apologized.

The tweet set off a flurry of events that ended with the Chinese Basketball Association announcing it would no longer air Rockets games. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the Chinese government asked him to fire Morey, something he has no intention of doing.
At yesterday's game, a cameraman noticed the group and approached them, Lopez says. When the demonstrators explained what they were about and asked to be shown on TV, the cameraman declined and walked away.

"I guess it's a sensitive subject," Lopez says.
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Alexi C. Cardona is a staff writer at Miami New Times. A Hialeah native, she's happy to be back home writing about Miami's craziness after four years working for Naples Daily News.
Contact: Alexi C. Cardona