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Sport Chinese broadcaster drops Arsenal game over Uighur remarks

14:45  15 december  2019
14:45  15 december  2019 Source:   ft.com

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China 's state broadcaster will no longer show Sunday's match between Arsenal and Manchester City after comments made by midfielder Mesut Ozil, according to reports. Ozil posted messages on Twitter and Instagram that were critical of China 's policies towards Uighur Muslims on Friday.

BEIJING — The German soccer star Mesut Özil is the latest international sports celebrity to be at the center of controversy over China ’s hard-line policies, igniting fury among Chinese internet users by denouncing the country’s mass detention of Muslims.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: A supporter of China's Muslim Uighur minority holds a placard of Arsenal's Turkish origin German midfielder Mesut Ozil during a demonstration at Beyazid square in Istanbul on December 14, 2019. - Arsenal's Mesut Ozil, a German footballer of Turkish origin, expressed on December 14, 2019 support for Uighurs in Xinjiang and criticised Muslim countries for their failure to speak up for them. (Photo by Ozan KOSE / AFP) (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images) © Provided by The Financial Times A supporter of China's Muslim Uighur minority holds a placard of Arsenal's Turkish origin German midfielder Mesut Ozil during a demonstration at Beyazid square in Istanbul on December 14, 2019. - Arsenal's Mesut Ozil, a German footballer of Turkish origin, expressed on December 14, 2019 support for Uighurs in Xinjiang and criticised Muslim countries for their failure to speak up for them. (Photo by Ozan KOSE / AFP) (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)

China’s state broadcaster CCTV, the main television distributor of the English Premier League in the nation, dropped plans to air a Sunday match between Arsenal and Manchester City after star midfielder Mesut Özil spoke out about Beijing’s treatment of Uighur Muslims.

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China 's state broadcaster CCTV has removed Sunday's Arsenal -Manchester City game from its schedule after comments made by Gunners midfielder Mesut Ozil, state media has reported.

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The incident makes Arsenal the latest victim of Beijing’s efforts to force western companies to follow its political agenda after the National Basketball Association faced a backlash in China when Houston Rockets executive Daryl Morey tweeted support for the Hong Kong protesters.

Arsenal attempted to distance itself from the comments of its popular star on Saturday. In a statement posted on Weibo, a Twitter-like service, the Premier League football club said Özil’s remarks were his personal opinion. “As a football club, Arsenal has always followed the principle of not interfering in politics,” said the statement.

Despite these comments, CCTV removed the match, which was due to air on Sunday at midnight from its broadcast schedule less than 48 hours after Mr Özil, a Turkish-German football player, posted the messages on Twitter and Instagram that blamed both China for its persecution of the Uighur ethnic group and Muslim countries for their silent response.

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English soccer club Arsenal tried on Saturday to distance itself from the comments of its star midfielder Mesut Ozil after he posted messages on Twitter and Instagram critical of China 's policies toward its Muslim Uighur minority. "The content he expressed is entirely Ozil's personal opinion.

China has been oppressing and persecuting the Uighurs , a Turkic Muslim group, and restraining their religious, commercial and cultural rights. In a report last September, Human Rights Watch accused the Chinese government of carrying out a "systematic campaign of human rights violations" against

(Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images) © Getty (Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images)

“Korans are being burnt. Mosques are being shut down. Muslim schools are being banned. Religious scholars are being killed one by one,” said the Arsenal player in Turkish tweets. “Despite all this, Muslims stay quiet.”

“What will be remembered years later would not be the torture by the tyrants but the silence of their Muslim brothers,” Mr Özil added.

China has rounded up more than one million Muslims, mostly Uighurs, in reeducation camps in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, according to human rights groups, creating one of the largest ethnic persecutions in recent history. However, Muslim countries have been reluctant to criticise Beijing over its Xinjiang policies.

China’s local press and social media has been flooded with criticism of the football star, while the Chinese Football Association told local media that it was “extremely angry and disappointed” to hear “a famous soccer player like Özil make such inappropriate remarks”.

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(Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images) © Getty (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)

“What Ozil said has clearly hurt his Chinese fans and Chinese people in general,” said CFA. “It is unacceptable.”

Chinese netizens have demanded Arsenal go further and make similar comments to those it made on Weibo on its Twitter and Instagram accounts.

“It is hypocritical for Arsenal to respond only in China but not in its home country,” said a comment on Weibo.

CCTV plans to replace Arsenal’s match with a taped game between Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

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