Soccer Broadcast Pulled After Arsenal Star Mesut Özil Criticized China


A state-run television network in China canceled a live broadcast Sunday of an English Premier League soccer match after the Arsenal star Mesut Özil publicly condemned the country’s treatment of fellow Muslims.

A state media report by The Global Times confirmed that the match between Manchester City and Arsenal had been pre-empted because of comments that Mr. Özil made Friday on Twitter that excoriated China over the mass detention of Uighurs, a largely Muslim Turkic minority in Xinjiang, in northwestern China.

China Central Television instead aired a match between Tottenham Hotspur and the Wolverhampton Wanderers, with state media characterizing Mr. Özil’s comments as “false” and saying that he had “disappointed” Chinese soccer fans.

Mr. Özil, who is from Germany and is of Turkish heritage, sought to draw attention to the internment of Muslims in China with his posts on Friday: “They shut down their mosques. They ban their schools. They kill their holy men. The men are forced into camps and their families are forced to live with Chinese men,” read identical posts on Mr. Özil’s Twitter and Instagram accounts, according to a translation by The Guardian.

On Monday, Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, invited Mr. Özil to visit Xinjiang.

“I don’t know whether Mr. Özil himself has been to Xinjiang or not, but it seems that he has been blinded by some fake news and his judgment has been influenced by some false words,” he said.

The episode recalled a similar firestorm in China in October, during which the general manager of the National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey, tweeted his support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Arsenal lost 3-0 to Manchester City.

Daniel Victor contributed reporting from Hong Kong, and Claire Fu contributed research from Beijing.

Source : Nytimes