Dec 15, 2019

Chinese broadcaster drops Arsenal match after player speaks out about Uighurs

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.

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Mike Pompeo supports Mesut Özil's comments on Uighur persecution

Arsenal soccer player Mesut Özil. Photo: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has tweeted his support for soccer star Mesut Özil after the Arsenal player criticized China’s mass detention of Uighur Muslims.

Driving the news: The comments come after Özil's London-based soccer club distanced itself from Özil's comments, with the team putting out a statement that it does not interfere in politics. Chinese broadcaster CCTV then pulled a match between Arsenal and Manchester City in light of the criticism.

Go deeperArrowDec 17, 2019

The slippery slope of foreign investments and human rights

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

For the past year, I've had a running digital conversation with a well-known Silicon Valley investor over my criticisms of tech startups taking money from Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund. Almost any time I write the word "Khashoggi," my phone buzzes with a link to the latest human rights violation in China.

The state of play: The investor's argument is that I dove head-first down a slippery slope. Even if the Chinese government doesn't directly invest in a U.S. company, as the Saudis often do, it's very difficult to separate China's private and public enterprise. Particularly in tech.

Go deeperArrowDec 16, 2019

The China challenge stumps the 2020 candidates

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Scott Eisen/Getty Images, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, Naohiko Hatta - Pool/Getty Images, and Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

Most U.S. presidential candidates identify China as a serious national security challenge, but they're short on details as to how they'd tackle the economic, technological and human rights threats posed by the world’s largest authoritarian power.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party is seeking to reshape the world in its own image and amass enough power to marginalize the United States and Western allies regardless of whether China is contending with President Trump for another four years — or one of his Democratic rivals.