An Evening with Mr. Freedom

It’s only fitting to give a “Freedom Award” to a man who speaks out unapologetically about the evils of the Chinese Communist Party. Especially when he has recently become a proud American citizen and officially changed his last name to FREEDOM.

It has been discouraging to watch one after another of the “rich and famous” bow to the Chinese Communist Party. I won’t provide examples. You know who they are. They come from every facet of American society. The sellouts include politicians, musicians, corporate executives, media personalities, movie stars, academics, and, of course, athletes and sports teams.

It was such a joy, therefore, to witness the uncompromising stand of then Boston Celtics’ famous player Mr. Enes Kanter Freedom. Since he first learned about the CCP’s brutal genocide against Uyghur and Kazakh people of East Turkestan (referred to as Xinjiang Province by the CCP), Freedom has not stopped speaking out about China’s human rights and religious freedom abuses.

That’s why the Committee on the Present Danger: China’s Captive Nations Coalition sponsored a reception to present Enes Kanter Freedom with our 2022 Freedom Award. The Captive Nations Coalition, led by Se Hoon Kim, comprises communities most harmed by the Chinese Communist regime, communities such as Uyghur, Kazakh, Tibetan, Mongolian, Hong Kong, Falun Gong, Chinese Christians, and other freedom fighters. The reception to recognize Mr. Freedom’s activism for Captive Nations was held on Capitol Hill on the evening of February 17, hosted by the Faith and Liberty Center across from Supreme Court. *

Freedom, born in Switzerland to Turkish parents, grew up in Turkey, familiar with oppression and human rights abuses. Speaking out about the abuses of Turkish President Erdogan has kept him out of Turkey for the last seven years. On November 29 of last year Enes Kanter became an American citizen and officially changed his last name to Freedom. His love for the USA is another reason we wanted to honor him.

Enes Kanter Freedom, U.S. Citizen (Photo credit: Enes Kanter Freedom)

In April 2021 when the Committee on the Present Danger: China (CPDC), of which I’m a founding member, launched the Genocide Games Coalition to protest the CCP’s hosting of the 2022 Winter Olympics, Katartismos Global and the Anglican Persecuted Church Network (New Wineskins Missionary Network) were among the sponsoring groups. We soon learned a formidable protest ally was the 6′ 11″ Celtic, boldly speaking out about Beijing. It became apparent that Enes was prepared to do what few others with his level of fame and prosperity would: risk it all to speak truth about the CCP.

All our efforts didn’t persuade the International Olympics Committee (IOC) to postpone the Olympics or change venues. Our work didn’t convince American corporate sponsors and media that they should withdraw support. But the Olympics were the least viewed of any in recent history. “Genocide Games,” our coalition’s name, became the most popular way of referring to the Beijing Olympics. And our joint plea with Enes Kanter Freedom for people to “turn off the Olympics” was heeded by millions.

The Award Ceremony for Mr. Freedom featured speakers representing the Uyghur, Tibetan, Mongolian, Hong Kong, Kazakh, and Chinese dissident communities, including survivors of the CCP’s concentration camps. Other speakers included Se Hoon Kim; Dede Laugesen, the Executive Director of Save the Persecuted Christians; and those of us who are members of the CPDC and other human rights advocates. A number of Congressional staff and many other “China watchers,” as well as media members attended. In addition, the co-leader of the Genocide Games Coalition, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers head Reggie Littlejohn honored two courageous Chinese women. She presented awards in absentia to tennis star Peng Shuai and imprisoned journalist Zhan Zhang.

Just a week before our evening to honor Enes, the Boston Celtics traded him to the Houston Rockets. And three days before the reception, February 14, the Rockets gave him the ultimate Valentine’s Day gift, dropping him from the roster. The Enes Kanter Freedom that arrived at the Faith and Liberty Center had given the ultimate gift to the Captive Nations: his basketball career for the foreseeable future. I hope that our evening with Mr. Freedom gave him some joy in the midst of the battle.

*In addition to the gracious hosting of the Faith and Liberty Center, the delicious food for the reception was a gift from one of the Captive Nations members, Mr. Hamid Kerim, from his Dolan Uyghur Restaurant.

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