Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil says China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims is abhorrent. It is. He says the Uighurs are “warriors who resist persecution”. He then added on the Chinese microblog Weibo, where he has over 4m followers: “[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.”
So upset was China that the state broadcaster CCTV banned the broadcast of Arsenal’s Premier League game against Manchester City. (To anyone watching in China, Arsenal won 4-1 and were magnificent.)
“China’s Communist Party propaganda outlets can censor Mesut Özil and Arsenal’s game all season long, but the truth will prevail,” says US secretary of state Mike Pompeo. “The CCP can’t hide its gross human rights violations perpetrated against Uighurs and other religious faiths from the world.”
The United Nations says as many as 2m Uighur Muslims have been locked up in Xinjiang. Beijing calls it an antiterrorism campaign. Detaining that many people sounds like something far more sinister.
China’s Foreign Ministry says Özil “had been completely deceived by fake news and false statements”. Fans in China have been burning Arsenal shirts.
Arsenal backed their man to the hilt. Er, no. They caved, commenting on Chinese social media: “The content he expressed is entirely Özil’s personal opinion.” The club that’s now the London office of Kroenke inc, then guffed: “Arsenal has always adhered to the principle of not involving itself in politics.” Good-oh. Josh Kroenke can read up on how to look the other way when he’s taking his holidays in Rwanda.
Here’s what Human Rights Watch has to say about the country Arsenal advertise on their shirts:
Tight restrictions on freedom of speech and political space remain in place, contrasting with solid results on economic development. Amendments to the constitution allowing President Paul Kagame to stand for a third term were approved in a referendum in December 2015. Kagame announced he would run for a third term. The government continues to limit the ability of opposition parties and civil society groups to function freely and independently in advance of the August 2017 presidential elections. Pro-government views dominate domestic media. Journalists who dare to question the official narrative are harassed or arrested. The authorities detained people unlawfully in unofficial detention centers; some were held incommunicado and tortured.
If you’re not going to back Ozil and say that importing British football means importing British values, then best to say nothing. Arsenal stuffed up – again.