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Protests in India over Indian T20 League's Chinese sponsor

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The Indian T20 League, the world's richest cricket tournament, faced angry protests on Tuesday after it decided to retain a Chinese phone maker as its main sponsor.

One nationalist group threatened to call a boycott of the Indian T20 League, picking up on a wave of anti-Chinese sentiment after a clash on the border between the neighbours' armies in which 20 Indian soldiers died.

The Indian T20 League said after the June 15 clash that it would review its sponsorship. Phone maker VIVO is the league's title sponsor having paid $330 million for a five-year deal up to 2022.

After repeatedly delaying the tournament because of the pandemic, the Indian T20 League said it would start in the United Arab Emirates on September 19 but sparked anger by making no mention of changing the sponsorship.

The Confederation of All India Traders, which claims 70 million small business members, said the Indian government should block the Indian T20 League tournament for showing "utter disregard" to public anger over the border deaths.

Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), the cultural arm of the influential Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) threatened a boycott of the Indian T20 League unless the Chinese sponsor was dropped.

"We want to urge the Indian T20 League organisers to reconsider their stand on sponsorship by Chinese companies," said an SJM statement.

"Please remember the nation's pride and security above all," it added.

The Indian T20 League did not immediately comment on the attacks but officials have told Indian media that the sponsorship would have been too complicated to change.

Following the clash in the Himalayas however, the Indian government banned 59 Chinese apps, including video sharing platform TikTok, citing national security and privacy concerns. 

Chinese officials have also expressed concern at other measures taken by the government which they see as freezing Chinese enterprises out of the Indian market of 1.3 billion people.

Some opposition politicians have however blamed the governemnt for the decision to keep the Chinese sponsors for the key cricket contest which is a huge revenue earner.

Congress party spokesman Randeep Surjewala accused the government of "profiteering and double standards" in the cricket case by not forcing the Indian T20 League to act.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Noah Seelam

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