Arsenal star Mesut Ozil has been accused of being ‘deceived by fake news’ according to the country’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.
Ozil slammed China’s treatment of the Uighur minority in a social media post where he wrote the following: “[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.”
Geng said: “I don’t know if Mr Ozil has been to Xinjiang himself – but it seems he has been deceived by fake news, and that his judgment was influenced by untruthful remarks.
“If Mr Ozil has the opportunity, we will be pleased to see him go to Xinjiang and have a look.”
Human rights groups say about a million people – mostly from the Muslim Uighur community – have been detained without trial in high-security prison camps according to the BBC.
China denies claims of abuses against the Uighur community and claims that the internment camps are actually “vocational training centres” to combat violent religious extremism.
Following Ozil’s comments, China’s state broadcaster CCTV removed the Premier League game between Arsenal and Manchester City from its broadcast schedule.
Additionally, the playmaker of Turkish origin has had his fan club on Chinese search engine Baidu removed by its founder, who said in a statement: “In front of national interest, any individual hobby doesn’t matter any more.”
The Uighurs are a Turkic minority group speaking a language closely related to Turkish with a population of about 11 million living predominantly in western China’s Xinjiang region – referred to the Uighur people as Eastern Turkistan.