China TV pulls Arsenal match after Ozil remarks

A star player for the Arsenal soccer club seems to have stirred up a storm in China. Off pitch midfielder Mesut Ozilcriticzed the country’s policy toward its Muslim Uighur minority over the weekend (December 14-15). A day later, Chinese state TV pulled coverage of Arsenal’s Premier League game against Manchester City. Ozil had posted on Instagram in support of Uighurs. He called them “mujahids who resist torture” and criticised both Beijing crackdown and the silence of Muslims in response. Arsenal immediately tried to distance itself from the comments. The club’s official account on Chinese social media ran a statement that Arsenal ‘always adheres to the principle of not being involved in politics.’ But in Turkey the post was met with enthusiasm. Hours later in Istanbul, posters with Ozil’s photo appeared at a rally against China. Many at the protest were members of the local Uighur community, calling out Beijing’s policy in Xinjiang a clamp-down that’s led to detention camps for Muslims. China says the camps are for ‘vocational training’ and describes detainees as ‘students’. United Nations experts say at least between 1 million and 2 million people are held in harsh conditions in the region. They also accus China of “very significant” human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities. Beijing has repeatedly denied mistreatment of Uighurs and calls its actions an anti-terrorism campaign.

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