Antoine Griezmann ends Huawei sponsorship over Uighur Muslim identification reports

World Cup winner says the Chinese telecommunications company should use its position to ‘implement action as quickly as possible to condemn this mass persecution’ of Uighur Muslims in China

Jack de Menezes
Sports News Correspondent
Thursday 10 December 2020 15:50 GMT
Antoine Griezmann has ended his relationship with Huawei due to recent news reports
Antoine Griezmann has ended his relationship with Huawei due to recent news reports (AFP via Getty)

Antoine Griezmann has ended his long-term sponsorship deal with Huawei over alleged identification software that can report the location of Uighur Muslims.

The Barcelona and France forward called on the Chinese company to “use its influence” to help promote equal human rights, following reports of software trials that can send ‘Uighur alarms’ published by research organisation IPVM via The Washington Post.

According to the report, Huawei worked with facial recognition company Megvii to test an identification system that could determine an individual’s age, sex and ethnicity by scanning a large crowd.

Following the publication of the allegations, 2018 World Cup-winner Griezmann announced he has cut ties with the telecommunications company with a statement on his Instagram profile.

“Following the strong suspicions according to which the Huawei company would have contributed to the development of a ‘Uighur Alert’ thanks to facial recognition software, I can announce that I have put an immediate end to my partnership linking me to this company.

“I am taking this opportunity to invite Huawei to not just be happy with denying these accusations but to implement action as quickly as possible to condemn this mass persecution and use its influence to contribute to respecting rights of men and women throughout society.”

Huawei confirmed that the document that revealed the link to Megvii’s facial recognition system that appeared on its website was genuine, but that the report was “simply a test and it has not seen real-world application. Huawei only supplies general-purpose products for this kind of testing. We do not provide custom algorithms or applications.”

A Megvii spokesman added that the company’s systems are not designed to target or label ethinic groups.

The 29-year-old is not the first footballer to speak out over the oppression of Uighur Muslims.

Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil hit out at China’s alleged persecution of its Uighur population, with his comments in December 2019 leading to coverage of the club’s Premier League match against Manchester City being pulled from Chinese television screens. The German also received little backing from the club over his comments, with an Arsenal statement stressing the club is “always apolitical as an organisation”.

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