China says Arsenal's Mesut Ozil 'deceived by fake news'

China said Ozil should visit Xinjiang to see for himself after the Arsenal footballer decried the treatment of the region’s Uighur minority.

Mesut Ozil during Arsenal's Premier League match against Manchester City on Sunday.   -  Reuters Photo

China accused Mesut Ozil on Monday of being “deceived by fake news” and said he should visit Xinjiang to see for himself after the Arsenal footballer decried the treatment of the region’s Uighur minority.

Ozil, a German national of Turkish origin, condemned China’s crackdown on Muslim minorities in the western region in a tweet Friday and criticised Muslim countries for failing to speak up about the alleged abuses.

Arsenal has distanced itself from his comments, but the English Premier League club’s 3-0 home defeat to Manchester City on Sunday was pulled from Chinese TV by state broadcaster CCTV.

The furore, which has potentially damaging repercussions for Arsenal and the Premier League in the lucrative Chinese market, follows the opprobrium heaped on the NBA in October after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters.

Read: Chinese TV pulls Arsenal match after Mesut Ozil’s Uighur comments

“I don’t know if Mr. Ozil has been to Xinjiang himself. But it seems he has been deceived by fake news, and that his judgment was influenced by untruthful remarks,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

“If Mr. Ozil has the opportunity, we will be pleased to see him going to Xinjiang and having a look,” Geng said.

“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.”

Earlier, a Global Times editorial slammed what it called a “clownish performance” from Ozil, 31, describing him as “confused” and “reckless” and saying he had abused his position as a public figure.

“Ozil’s move has ruined his image among Chinese fans and will have serious implications for Arsenal,” warned the state newspaper.

Leading streaming service PPTV also appeared to have cancelled its screening of the match in China.

“I’m an Arsenal fan and today I cheered for City’s victory,” posted one user.

“Manchester City is a good friend of the Chinese people,” added another.

Ozil played only an hour of the City defeat before being substituted.

His slow walk to the touchline before booting away his gloves in frustration drew the wrath of some disgruntled Arsenal fans.

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