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Mesut Ozil deleted from Chinese version of PES 2020 after comments on treatment of Uighur Muslims

NetEase, which publishes the PES franchise in China, has confirmed that it will remove Ozil from its three existing games including its most popular edition, PES 2020 Mobile

Lawrence Ostlere
Wednesday 18 December 2019 13:09 GMT
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Mesut Ozil spoke out against the treatment of Uyghur Muslims
Mesut Ozil spoke out against the treatment of Uyghur Muslims (Getty)

Mesut Ozil has been deleted from the computer game PES 2020 Mobile in China amid the row over his public condemnation of the country’s treatment of Uighur Muslims.

Ozil spoke out against the Chinese government, which has detained more than a million Uighurs in internment camps, according to a UN report. China responded by saying Ozil had been taken in by “fake news”.

State television scrapped a live broadcast of Arsenal’s game with Manchester City and now NetEase, which publishes the PES franchise in China, has confirmed that it will remove Ozil from its three existing games including its most popular edition, PES 2020 Mobile.

In a statement on Weibo, NetEase said: “The German player Ozil posted an extreme statement about China on social media. The speech hurt the feelings of Chinese fans and violated the sports spirit of love and peace. We do not understand, accept or forgive this!”

Ozil’s comments have ignited much debate, with Arsenal quick to distance themselves from the midfielder’s criticisms of a country which is one of the biggest growth markets in football.

Having recently played in China, the former Barcelona and Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure said Ozil should not have spoken out to denounce human rights in the country.

Toure said that discussing the mass detention on Uighurs and others is “complicated” because he and Ozil are both Muslim, but took a different approach to the Arsenal midfielder over whether athletes should use their platforms to discuss political issues.

“Footballers have to stay with football and politicians to politics because you cannot be involved with this kind of things because it’s going to attract a lot of problems and a lot of things,” Toure said in an interview with The Associated Press. “As a Muslim it is complicated and it is his choice. He’s been doing his comments but I think he was wrong to say that.”

One politician who did weigh in to support Ozil was US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“China’s Communist Party propaganda outlets can censor (Ozil) and Arsenal’s games all season long, but the truth will prevail,” Pompeo wrote on his U.S. government Twitter account on Tuesday. “The CCP can’t hide its gross #HumanRightsviolations perpetrated against Uighurs and other religious faiths from the world.”

Toure, a former Ivory Coast international, has just completed five months playing at Chinese second-tier club Qingdao Huanghai. Toure’s comments on Ozil echo the stance of Arsenal, which said it “adheres to the principle of not being involved in politics.”

“I always love football,” Toure said during a trip to Qatar with FIFA for the Club World Cup, “and that’s why sometimes I don’t want to be political.”

Secret documents reported by the AP last month showed the Chinese government used mass surveillance and an integrated computing system to target pious Muslims and Uighurs who travelled abroad for detention in internment camps. China has been accused of detaining more than 1 million Uighurs and other minorities in Xinjiang and subjecting them to torture, beatings and food deprivation. The documents showed they were forced to learn Mandarin and Communist ideology.

Additional reporting by AP

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