China said Monday that Arsenal footballer Mesut Ozil was “deceived by fake news” after he posted criticism of Beijing’s treatment of its Uighur minority, and urged him to visit Xinjiang to see for himself.
Ozil, a German national of Turkish origin, condemned China’s crackdown on Muslim minorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang in a tweet Friday, and criticised Muslim countries for failing to speak up about the alleged abuses.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Monday that Ozil’s “judgment was influenced by untruthful remarks” and he would be “pleased to see him going to Xinjiang and having a look”.
“As long as he has common sense, can make a clear distinction between right and wrong, and upholds the principles of objectivity and fairness, he will see a different Xinjiang,” said Geng.
“Xinjiang enjoys political stability, economic development, national unity, social harmony, and… people there live and work in peace and contentment.”
On Sunday, state broadcaster CCTV pulled live coverage of the Premier League game between Arsenal and Manchester City from its programming.
Global Times, a Chinese state-run newspaper, warned Monday that the player’s criticism would have “serious implications” for the Premier League team, which has distanced itself from his comments.
Rights groups and experts say more than one million Uighurs and people of other mostly Muslim ethnic minorities have been sent to a network of re-education camps in the tightly controlled region.
Chinese officials say the facilities are “vocational education centres” where people learn job skills and Mandarin in a bid to steer them away from terrorism after a spate of deadly attacks blamed on extremists and separatists.