China’s state broadcaster CCTV has scrapped coverage of Sunday’s Arsenal-Manchester City game after comments made by Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil that were highly critical of Beijing’s brutal mass crackdown on ethnic Muslims in the country.
Ozil – who is Turkish and Muslim – had used a post to condemn the detention of more than one million Uighurs and other minorities in so-called re-education camps.
There Uighurs are subjected to starvation, torture and political indoctrination in the camps.
“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 Ozil’s Twitter and Instagram accounts, according to a translation by The Guardian.
He also complained that “Muslims stay quiet” on the atrocities.
China is the Premier League’s most lucrative broadcast market outside the UK, with the rights sold for $US700 million ($A1 billion) for three seasons between 2019-2022.
China’s Global Times newspaper described Ozil’s comments as “false” and claimed he had “disappointed” football authorities.
The Chinese Football Association said Ozil’s comments were “unacceptable” and had “hurt the feelings” of Chinese fans and expressed “great indignation and disappointment” at Ozil’s comments.
In retaliation, CCTV will play the Tottenham and Wolves game instead.
For its part, Arsenal’s management has distanced itself from the controversy, saying in a statement: “The content he expressed is entirely Ozil’s personal opinion. As a football club, Arsenal always adheres to the principle of not being involved in politics.”
However, the EPL club will be looking to avoid a similar incident that occurred in October when manager of the NBA team, the Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey tweeted his support for pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. The tweet caused some Chinese corporations to suspend relationships with the NBA and was swiftly pulled by team management.