China’s state broadcaster CCTV on Dec. 15 removed Arsenal’s Premier League game against Manchester City from its broadcast schedule following Mesut Ozil’s messages that criticised the country’s policy towards its Muslim Uighur minority.
The state-run Global Times Newspaper said on its Twitter account on Dec. 15 that CCTV took the decision after midfielder Ozil’s comments the day before had “disappointed fans and football governing authorities”.
Ozil’s posts called Uyghurs “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,” Ozil, who is a Muslim, said in his posts.
An Arsenal spokesman told Reuters that they had no official statement on the issue after CCTV’s decision to show a taped game between Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers instead of the originally planned fixture.
CCTV did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Arsenal on Dec. 15 tried to distance itself from Ozil’s comments after he posted messages on Twitter and Instagram.
“The content he expressed is entirely Ozil’s personal opinion,” the official account of Arsenal said in a post on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform.
“As a football club, Arsenal always adheres to the principle of not being involved in politics.”
The club’s Twitter account did not have a post addressing Ozil’s comments as of the morning of Dec. 15.
The Chinese Football Association told government-backed news outlet, The Paper, on Saturday it was “outraged and disappointed” by Ozil’s remarks, describing them as “inappropriate”.
The United Nations and human rights groups estimate that between 1 million and 2 million people, mostly ethnic Uyghur 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 Uyghurs.