China says Arsenal's Ozil 'deceived by fake news' after Uighur comments

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Premier League - Norwich City v Arsenal - Carrow Road, Norwich, Britain - December 1, 2019 Arsenal's Mesut Ozil REUTERS/Chris Radburn

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Foreign Ministry on Monday said Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil “had been completely deceived by fake news and false statements” after the midfielder criticized the country’s policy toward its Muslim Uighur minority.

Arsenal distanced itself from Ozil’s comments, saying that they were entirely his personal opinion. China’s state broadcaster CCTV later removed Arsenal’s Premier League game against Manchester City from its Sunday broadcast schedule.

The United Nations and human rights groups estimate that between 1 million and 2 million people, mostly ethnic Uighur Muslims, have been detained in harsh conditions in Xinjiang as part of what Beijing calls an anti-terrorism campaign.

China has repeatedly denied any mistreatment of Uighurs.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a briefing: “I don’t know if Mr. Ozil has ever been to Xinjiang personally but he’s been completely deceived by fake news and false statements have influenced his judgment.”

“We also welcome Mr. Ozil to come to Xinjiang if he has the chance, to take a walk and look around, as long as he has a conscience, is able to distinguish right from wrong and uphold the principles of objectivity and fairness, he will see a different Xinjiang,” he added.

Reporting by Huizhong Wu in Beijing; Writing by Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Editing by Alison Williams