Mesut Ozil: Arsenal distances itself from German midfielder's criticism of China’s Uighur Muslim persecution

Club says it ‘adheres to the principle of not being involved in politics’

Andrew Galbraith
Saturday 14 December 2019 16:44
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Arsenal's match against Man City was dropped from Chinese state TV
Arsenal's match against Man City was dropped from Chinese state TV

Arsenal FC has distanced itself from comments made by one of their footballers which criticised China's treatment of its Muslim Uighur minority.

After midfielder Mesut Ozil posted the messages on Twitter and Instagram, the football club said: "The content he expressed is entirely Ozil's personal opinion."

Its official account said on China's Twitter-like Weibo platform: "As a football club, Arsenal always adheres to the principle of not being involved in politics."

Ozil's posts called Uighurs "warriors who resist persecution" and criticised both China's crackdown and the silence of Muslims in response.

"(In China) Qurans are burned, mosques were closed down, Islamic theological schools, madrasas were banned, religious scholars were killed one by one. Despite all this, Muslims stay quiet," the Arsenal player, who is a Muslim, said.

The club's Twitter account did not have a post addressing Ozil's comments as of Saturday afternoon.

But replies to Arsenal's Weibo post were angry, with one showing a shredded Ozil soccer jersey next to a pair of scissors and others demanding he be expelled from the club.

A search on Weibo for the hashtag translatable as "Ozil issues inappropriate statement", which had been one of the top trending topics on the platform, returned no results on Saturday afternoon.

Weibo frequently censors discussion of sensitive topics, particularly amid a push by Beijing to clean up its internet.

The United Nations and human rights groups estimate that between one million and two million people, mostly ethnic Uighur Muslims, have been detained in harsh conditions in Xinjiang as part of what Beijing calls an anti-terrorism campaign.

China has repeatedly denied any mistreatment of Uighurs.

Reuters

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