Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger defended Mesut Ozil following his criticism of China’s treatment of the Uighur minority.
Wenger did however, also make it clear that Ozil must “accept the consequences” of his statement.
“I don’t think the situation is definite, that can change very quickly, and although I don’t know the situation well overall, Ozil made a comment and after, when you make a comment about your individual opinion, you accept the consequences of it,” Wenger said.
“First of all Mesut Ozil has freedom of speech like everyone else and he uses his notoriety to express his opinions, what is not necessarily shared by everybody but he has the right to do that.
“I don’t want to go into that dilemma, I think what is important is that Ozil has an individual responsibility, he doesn’t carry the word of Arsenal Football Club. So what he says is about himself, not about Arsenal,” Wenger added.
Ozil slammed China on social media with a lengthy statement raising awareness of the plight of the Uighur community and the Muslim community’s silence over the current situation.
— Mesut Özil (@MesutOzil1088) December 13, 2019
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang claimed that Ozil has been misled by fake news.
“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,” he said.
“If Mr Ozil has the opportunity, we will be pleased to see him go to Xinjiang and have a look.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meanwhile, came out in support of the playmaker of Turkish origin, saying Beijing could not hide rights violations.
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China’s Communist Party propaganda outlets can censor @MesutOzil1088 and @Arsenal’s games all season long, but the truth will prevail. The CCP can’t hide its gross #HumanRights violations perpetrated against Uighurs and other religious faiths from the world.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) December 17, 2019
China denies mistreatment of the Uighur minority but 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.
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.