A supporter of China's Muslim Uyghur minority holds a placard of Arsenal's Turkish origin German midfielder Mesut Ozil reading "Thanks for being our voice" past flags of East Turkestan during a demonstration at Beyazid square in Istanbul on December 14, 2019. - Arsenal's Mesut Ozil, a German footballer of Turkish origin, expressed on December 14, 2019 support for Uyghurs in Xinjiang and criticised Muslim countries for their failure to speak up for them. (Photo by Ozan KOSE / AFP) (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: OZAN KOSE/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
A supporter of China's Muslim Uyghur minority holds a placard of Arsenal's Turkish origin German midfielder Mesut Ozil reading "Thanks for being our voice" past flags of East Turkestan during a demonstration at Beyazid square in Istanbul on December 14, 2019. - Arsenal's Mesut Ozil, a German footballer of Turkish origin, expressed on December 14, 2019 support for Uyghurs in Xinjiang and criticised Muslim countries for their failure to speak up for them. (Photo by Ozan KOSE / AFP) (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)
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(CNN) —  

Chinese state media on Sunday pulled coverage of Arsenal’s English Premier League game against Manchester City after its midfielder Mesut Ozil posted social media messages in support of China’s Muslim Uyghur minority.

“(In China) Qurans are burned, mosques were closed down, Islamic theological schools, madrasas were banned, religious scholars were killed one by one. Despite all this, Muslims stay quiet,” Ozil said in a post on both Twitter and Instagram.

READ: Chinese state media pulls TV coverage of Arsenal game after Ozil shows Uyghur support
READ: Turkish President Erdogan attends wedding of Arsenal star Ozil

Mesut Ozil (L) in action for Arsenal against West Ham on December 9.
PHOTO: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/AFP via Getty Images
Mesut Ozil (L) in action for Arsenal against West Ham on December 9.

Allegations of abuse are rampant, including in firsthand accounts given to CNN describing torture and forced political re-education under the threat of violence.

Defending his country’s human rights record at a United Nations forum in early November, Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Yucheng said that his country had made “remarkable progress” in the past four decades, including “lifting more than a billion people out of poverty.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Monday that Ozil had been “blinded by some fake news,” and wasn’t aware of the true situation in Xinjiang.

“We also welcome Mr. Ozil to come to Xinjiang and take a look. As long as he has a conscience, and is able to distinguish right from wrong, and adheres to the principles of objectivity and fairness, he will see a different Xinjiang,” Geng said.

CCTV had originally planned to air Sunday’s game live on CCTV-5 – the station’s sports channel – at 12:30 a.m on December 16 local time.

CCTV, which rarely explains why it changes its airing schedule, did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment as to the reasoning behind the decision not to show the game, which was the Premier League’s leading match Sunday.

Premier League champion Manchester City beat Arsenal 3-0 to stay in touch with leaders Liverpool.

Mesut Ozil was named in Arsenal's starting XI to face Manchester City on Sunday.
PHOTO: Jan Kruger/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Mesut Ozil was named in Arsenal's starting XI to face Manchester City on Sunday.

Chinese video streaming website PPTV – a popular online platform – also pulled the game from its schedule.

Online sports platform Sina Sports released a post on Sina Weibo: “Ozil’s remarks have upset his fans in China. Just because he’s a well-known sportsman, it doesn’t give him the right to comment on issues relating to the national interests and he needs to explain himself.”

Dongqiudi.com, one of the most popular soccer sites in China, released a statement Friday saying: “Freedom of speech has boundaries and it should be used on the basis of respecting other countries’ sovereignty, not interfering in their domestic affairs.”

Meanwhile in an interview with state-owned newspaper Global Times Friday, a Chinese Football Association official expressed his “great indignation and disappointment” at Ozil’s remarks.

“‘East Turkistan’ is not a nationalistic issue, not a religious issue, but separatism, terrorism, extremism, and is disdained and rejected by peace-loving people all over the world

“Ozil’s remarks not only hurt many Chinese fans who liked him, but also hurt the feelings of the Chinese people. It is unacceptable to us.”

06:46 - Source: CNN
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