Mesut Özil. Photo: Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images
China’s state broadcaster CCTV, the primary distributor of English Premier League soccer in the country, pulled a match between Arsenal and Manchester City on Sunday after Arsenal midfielder Mesut Özil criticized Beijing for its mass detention of Uighur Muslims, the Financial Times reports.
The backdrop: Özil, a Turkish-German soccer player, denounced China on Twitter and Instagram for persecuting Uighur minorities in Xinjiang province, while also calling out Muslim-majority countries for their silence.
What they're saying: "Korans are being burnt. Mosques are being shut down. Muslim schools are being banned. Religious scholars are being killed one by one,” Özil tweeted in Turkish. “Despite all this, Muslims stay quiet."
- Arsenal distanced itself from Özil's comments on Saturday, saying in a statement on the Chinese app Weibo: “As a football club, Arsenal has always followed the principle of not interfering in politics,” according to FT.
- The Chinese Football Association told local media: "What Ozil said has clearly hurt his Chinese fans and Chinese people in general. It is unacceptable.”
The big picture: This isn't the first time a Western sports team has come under fire for its response to China's human rights abuses. In October, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted an image expressing support for pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong, setting off a chain of events that included Morey apologizing and the Chinese government demanding the league take disciplinary action.