Arsenal's Mesut Ozil's comments on treatment of Uighur Muslims 'blinded and misled' says China as state TV pulls match

Chinese state television pulled coverage of Arsenal's Premier League match against Manchester City on Sunday in retaliation for Mesut Ozil's criticism of the country's treatment of Muslims and ethnic minorities.

The Arsenal star was "blinded and misled," China's Foreign Ministry said on Monday after the footballer denounced the country's treatment of one million Uighur Muslims in a post on Twitter on Friday.

His comments condemning the burning of Qurans, the closing mosques and the killing of religious scholars, provoked outrage in China where the sports channel of Chinese state television showed a delayed recording of Tottenham's 2-1 victory over Wolverhampton instead of Arsenal's 3-0 loss to City in protest.

The Chinese Football Association expressed "great indignation and disappointment" at Ozil's comments, according to the Global Times newspaper published by the ruling Communist Party.

Arsenal lost 3-0 to Manchester City on Sunday. Credit: PA

More than one million Uighurs and other ethnic minorities have been detained in re-education camps in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang, where they are subjected to political indoctrination, torture, beatings and food deprivation, as well as denial of religious and linguistic freedom.

But the country's Foreign Ministry on Monday said the Turkish-German footballer was welcome to visit the far western Chinese region to see the situation for himself claiming "Xinjiang now enjoys political stability, economic development and social harmony, where people all live and work in peace."

"Xinjiang is an inalienable part of Chinese territory. In history, we have never called Xinjiang East Turkestan, still less the so-called the State of East Turkestan. I don't know if Mr Mesut Ozil has ever visited Xinjiang. It seems that he was blinded and misled by some false reports and untrue words," Geng Shuang, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said.

A fan drapes a Chinese national flag over an NBA banner during a preseason NBA basketball game. Credit: AP

China is the Premier League's most lucrative overseas broadcast market, with the rights sold for $700 million in a three-year deal that runs through 2022.

The north London club quickly distanced themselves from Ozil's comments with a post on China's social media network Weibo saying it was his own personal opinion in a bid to mitigate the outrage.

On Saturday, some residents in Beijing expressed their disappointment at Ozil's comments.

“I think he is very wrong," lawyer Chen Wangshu said, adding that “as a sportsman, his most important responsibility is to do his job well, or to play good football”.

Arsenal will be hoping to avoid the backlash faced by the Houston Rockets earlier this year after the NBA team's general manager, Daryl Morey, tweeted support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.

The tweet was swiftly deleted and Rockets owner and billionaire casino and restaurant owner Tilman Fertitta put out a tweet saying Morey does not speak for the team.

But the damage was done and some Chinese corporations suspended relationships with the NBA.