The Premier League clash between Arsenal and Manchester City will no longer be shown on television in China due to comments made by Gunners star Mesut Ozil.
CCTV, China’s state broadcaster, was due to show the encounter on Sunday, but state media reports this will no longer be the case following a statement from the Germany international playmaker on social media.
Instead, CCTV will show Tottenham’s clash with Wolves on delay.
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Commenting on allegations that Uighur Muslims in the country are persecuted, Ozil said: “East Turkistan, the bleeding wound of the Ummah, resisting against the persecutors trying to separate them from their religion.
“They burn their Qurans. 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. The women are forced to marry Chinese men.
“But Muslims are silent. They won’t make a noise. They have abandoned them. Don’t they know that giving consent for persecution is persecution itself?”
Arsenal were quick to distance themselves from the comments, indicating that they are apolitical as an organisation.
“Regarding the comments made by Mesut Ozil on social media, Arsenal must make a clear statement,” they said via Weibo, China’s most popular social network.
“The content published is Ozil's personal opinion. As a football club, Arsenal has always adhered to the principle of not involving itself in politics.”
Meanwhile, the Chinese FA reacted, with a spokesperson stating: “’East Turkistan’ is not an ethnic or religious issue. Ozil's comments not only hurt many Chinese fans but also hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.”
This is not the first time a sporting organisation has run into trouble for criticising the Chinese government.
In October, the NBA were subject to criticism from the state after Houston Rockets manager Daryl Morey sent his support to pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, prompting Chinese companies to suspended sponsorship and television deals, costing the league “a substantial” amount of money according to Adam Silver, the organisation’s chief.
Ozil, meanwhile, is no strangers to political storms, having prompted an outcry in 2018 after being photographed with controversial Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was later the best man at his wedding.