Chinese TV pulls Arsenal match after Ozil’s Uighur comments

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil condemned China’s crackdown on Muslim minorities in the western region in a tweet on Friday. (File photo: Reuters)
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Updated 15 December 2019

Chinese TV pulls Arsenal match after Ozil’s Uighur comments

BEIJING: Chinese state broadcaster CCTV has pulled a game between Arsenal and Manchester City from its program after the Gunners midfielder Mesut Ozil expressed support for Uighurs in Xinjiang.
Ozil, a German of Turkish origin, condemned China’s crackdown on Muslim minorities in the western region in a tweet on Friday, while criticizing Muslim countries for failing to speak up against abuses.
Sunday’s Premier League game in London between Arsenal and Manchester City was initially scheduled to be broadcast live by CCTV’s sports channel shortly after midnight on Monday, according to a schedule published earlier on the league’s official Weibo account.
However, by Sunday CCTV replaced the match on its schedule with a pre-recorded game between Tottenham and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
“Qur'ans are being burnt... Mosques are being shut down ... Muslim schools are being banned ... Religious scholars are being killed one by one ... Brothers are forcefully being sent to camps,” Ozil wrote in Turkish on his Twitter account Friday.
“The Muslims are silent. Their voice is not heard,” he wrote on a background of a blue field with a white crescent moon, the flag of what Uighur separatists call East Turkestan.
China has faced growing international condemnation for setting up a vast network of camps in Xinjiang aimed at homogenizing the Uighur population to reflect China’s majority Han culture.
Rights groups and experts say more than one million Uighurs and people of other mostly Muslim ethnic minorities have been rounded up in the camps in the tightly controlled region.
After initially denying the camps existed, China now describes them as vocational schools aimed at dampening the allure of Islamist extremism and violence.
Arsenal on Saturday distanced itself from Ozil’s comments, saying it has “always adhered to the principle of not involving itself in politics.”
Ozil’s comments drew anger online, with some users on Weibo calling for a ban on his games.
Nationalist tabloid Global Times called Ozil’s comments “false” and said in a tweet on Sunday that he had “disappointed Chinese fans and football governing authorities.”
The cancelation prompted further criticism of Ozil, including from Arsenal fans.
“If it hadn’t been for Arsenal’s Ozil making trouble out of nothing, would the broadcast of the entire team’s match have been blocked in China?” one user asked on Sunday.
“(Ozil) published inappropriate comments on foreign social media that would greatly hurt the feelings of Chinese fans,” another user said.
Arsenal is the latest foreign team to face the ire of Chinese broadcasters and audiences due to a player’s political stance.
The NBA in October sparked a backlash in China after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters.
In response, CCTV canceled its broadcasts of two NBA pre-season games in China, and the Rockets have been absent from CCTV and Internet giant Tencent’s programming schedule so far this season.


Google CEO calls for regulation of artificial intelligence

Updated 20 January 2020

Google CEO calls for regulation of artificial intelligence

  • Sundar Pichai’s comments come as lawmakers and governments seriously consider putting limits on how artificial intelligence is used
  • Pichai’s comments suggest the company may be hoping to head off a broad-based crackdown by the EU on the technology

LONDON: Google’s chief executive called Monday for a balanced approach to regulating artificial intelligence, telling a European audience that the technology brings benefits but also “negative consequences.”

Sundar Pichai’s comments come as lawmakers and governments seriously consider putting limits on how artificial intelligence is used.

“There is no question in my mind that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated. The question is how best to approach this,” Pichai said, according to a transcript of his speech at a Brussel-based think tank.

He noted that there’s an important role for governments to play and that as the European Union and the US start drawing up their own approaches to regulation, “international alignment” of any eventual rules will be critical. He did not provide specific proposals.

Pichai spoke on the same day he was scheduled to meet the EU’s powerful competition regulator, Margrethe Vestager.

Vestager has in previous years hit the Silicon Valley giant with multibillion-dollar fines for allegedly abusing its market dominance to choke off competition. After being reappointed for a second term last autumn with expanded powers over digital technology policies, Vestager has now set her sights on artificial intelligence, and is drawing up rules on its ethical use.

Pichai’s comments suggest the company may be hoping to head off a broad-based crackdown by the EU on the technology. Vestager and the EU have been the among the more aggressive regulators of big tech firms, an approach US authorities have picked up with investigations into the dominance of companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon.

“Sensible regulation must also take a proportionate approach, balancing potential harms with social opportunities,” he said, adding that it could incorporate existing standards like Europe’s tough General Data Protection Regulation rather than starting from scratch.

While it promises big benefits, he raised concerns about potential downsides of artificial intelligence, citing as one example its role in facial recognition technology, which can be used to find missing people but also for “nefarious reasons” which he didn’t specify.

In 2018, Google pledged not to use AI in applications related to weapons, surveillance that violates international norms, or that works in ways that go against human rights.