As the fallout from Mesut Ozil’s condemnation of China's treatment of the Uighur Muslim minorities continues to soar, New Zealand rugby star Sonny Bill Williams has joined the Arsenal midfielder. Williams spoke out against the alleged human rights abuse by the government in the country's far-western Xinjiang region. He lamented that some had chosen economic gains over humanity.
Sonny Bill Williams, who embraced Islam back in 2009, had shared a picture through his Twitter handle of a hand representing the Chinese flag which could be seen bloodily gripping another hand which is painted like the flag of East Turkestan. Muslim-majority Uyghurs refer to their home region of Xinjiang as East Turkestan.
China was furious in its response to the Arsenal star’s attack on their policies. His Premier League club had distanced itself on Chinese social media from the comments made by Mesut Ozil. He faced further backlash which involved putting him away from the Chinese versions of Pro Evolution Soccer computer game. The Chinese state television also decided to pull off the broadcast of a match between Arsenal and Manchester City. Mesut Ozil also drew flak from a fellow footballer who criticized him for getting involved with politics.
In a similar case, China moved in last year to attack NBA’s Houston Rockets after its general manager Daryl Morey had shown support for Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters. It was reported by league chief Adam Silver that the Chinese government had demanded Morey to be sacked for posting a tweet in support of the protesters.