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Arsenal sends message to China distancing club from Mesut Ozil Uighur callout

Football club posts statement on Chinese social media declaring player's comments to be 'personal opinion'
Uighur protesters in Istanbul hold pictures of Mesut Ozil (AFP)

Arsenal has sent a message to Chinese supporters distancing the soccer club from comments by one of its players, Mesut Ozil, this week condemning China's treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority. 

In a statement posted on Chinese social media platform Weibo, Arsenal said it "must make a clear statement" that the club does not make political statements. 

"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."

Responses to Arsenal's Weibo post displayed anger towards the player, with one showing a shredded Ozil football jersey next to a pair of scissors and others demanding he be expelled from the club.

Arsenal does not appear to have posted the statement on its English-language platforms.

German footballer Ozil, whose parents are from Turkey, posted on Instagram lamenting the persecution of the people of East Turkestan, a name often used for the Chinese region of Xinxiang where many Uighurs live. 

"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,” he wrote in Turkish, using the East Turkistan flag as the background for the post.

Around a million Uighurs are estimated to be held in Chinese detention centres, and the population in general is tightly controlled, including restrictions on their religious practice. 

Leaked documents published by the New York Times in November revealed how President Xi Jingping had ordered "absolutely no mercy" against the minority. 

Earlier in 2019, America's National Basketball Association was criticised for running a basketball training camp in the Xinxiang region.