Mike Pompeo backs Mesut Ozil; condemns China's rights abuses

Washington's top diplomat tweets support for German player, criticises China over its treatment of the Uighur minority.

    Mesut Ozil of Arsenal called the Uighur people of China 'warriors who resist persecution' [Kieran Galvin/EPA-EFE]
    Mesut Ozil of Arsenal called the Uighur people of China 'warriors who resist persecution' [Kieran Galvin/EPA-EFE]

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo renewed his condemnation of China over its "gross human rights violations", tweeting support for Arsenal footballer Mesut Ozil who last week criticised Beijing for its treatment of its Muslim-Uighur minority.

    Ozil, a German national of Turkish descent, in social media posts called Uighurs "warriors who resist persecution" and berated Muslim countries for failing to speak up against China's policies towards them.

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    China's state broadcaster CCTV on Sunday removed Arsenal's game against Manchester City from its broadcast schedule. The following day, Beijing responded by saying Ozil was "blinded by fake news".

    "China's Communist Party propaganda outlets can censor @MesutOzil1088 and @Arsenal's games all season long, but the truth will prevail," Pompeo said in a tweet on Tuesday.

    The United Nations and activists say China has detained roughly one million Uighurs in detention camps in the Xinjiang region. China says the centres provide vocational training and are part of a programme designed to tackle "terrorism".

    The US House of Representatives passed legislation earlier this month requiring a stronger response to Beijing's treatment of the Uighur community. 

    Xinjiang's governor called the move a severe violation of international law and gross interference in China's internal affairs.

    'Stay with football'

    Former Barcelona and Manchester midfielder Yaya Toure, in an interview with The Associated Press, said Ozil shouldn't have addressed the issue of human rights abuses in China.

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    Toure said discussing the mass detention of Uighurs and others is "complicated" because he and Ozil are both Muslim, but took a different approach to the Arsenal midfielder over whether athletes should use their platforms to discuss political issues.

    "Footballers have to stay with football and politicians to politics because you cannot be involved with this kind of things because it's going to attract a lot of problems and a lot of things," Toure said. 

    "As a Muslim it is complicated and it is his choice. He's been doing his comments but I think he was wrong to say that."

    Toure, a former Ivory Coast international, just completed five months playing at Chinese second-tier club Qingdao Huanghai. His comments on Ozil echo the stance of Arsenal, which said it "adheres to the principle of not being involved in politics".

    "I always love football," Toure said during a trip to Qatar with FIFA for the Club World Cup, "and that's why sometimes I don't want to be political."

    Will US proposed law change anything for the Uighurs?

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    Will US proposed law change anything for the Uighurs?

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies