Ozil cut from video game in China over Xinjiang comments

A supporter of China’s Muslim Uighur minority holds a placard of Arsenal’s Turkish origin German midfielder Mesut Ozil reading ‘Thanks for being our voice’ during a demonstration at Beyazid Square, in Istanbul. (AFP)
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Updated 19 December 2019

Ozil cut from video game in China over Xinjiang comments

  • US-listed Chinese Internet company NetEase said it removed Ozil from the game due to his ‘extreme comment about China’
  • Ozil, a German national of Turkish origin, condemned China’s crackdown on Muslim minorities in the western region of Xinjiang in a tweet

SHANGHAI: Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil has been deleted from Chinese versions of the popular Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) mobile game, the title’s China distributor has said, as the fallout builds over his criticism of the country’s treatment of its Uighur minority.
US-listed Chinese Internet company NetEase said it removed Ozil from the game due to his “extreme comment about China.”
Ozil, a German national of Turkish origin, condemned China’s crackdown on Muslim minorities in the western region of Xinjiang in a tweet last Friday and criticized Muslim countries for failing to speak up about the alleged abuses.
Arsenal has distanced itself from his comments, while China said his tweets were “untruthful” and that he was “deceived by fake news.”
Meanwhile, German Bundesliga club FC Cologne pulled out of a football academy in China, citing a re-evaluation of “resources and priorities.”
But senior official Stefan Mueller-Roemer, a former club president and now head of the fan council, told local newspaper Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger that “we don’t need China in sport,” charging that “human rights are massively disrespected” in the country.
China has faced growing international condemnation for setting up a vast network of camps in Xinjiang, where critics say Uighurs are pressured to renounce Islam, support the ruling Communist Party, and integrate with China’s majority Han culture.
Rights groups and experts say more than one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated, part of a long-term government response to tame years of persistent violent unrest against Beijing’s control of Xinjiang.
Ozil had tweeted in Turkish: “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.”
“The Muslims are silent. Their voice is not heard,” he wrote against a blue backdrop with a white crescent moon — the flag of ‘East Turkestan’, the term many Uighur separatists use for Xinjiang.
Shortly afterward, NetEase announced on its verified Chinese social media accounts that Ozil’s comments had “hurt the feelings of Chinese fans and violated the sport’s spirit of love and peace.”
“We do not understand, accept or forgive this comment,” it said.
Konami, the Japanese developer of the game, declined to comment on the matter when contacted by AFP.
Following Ozil’s comments, Chinese state television dropped plans to broadcast the English Premier League club’s match last Sunday, and discussion of the topic is now heavily censored in China.
China at first denied that the camps existed but later acknowledged them as foreign pressure grew, saying they were vocational training centers.
In a similar episode, China moved in October to punish the NBA’s Houston Rockets after its general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters.
Ozil has been praised on Twitter for speaking out, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also weighing this week.
“China’s Communist Party propaganda outlets can censor @MesutOzil1088 and @Arsenal’s games all season long, but the truth will prevail,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter, chastising China for its “gross” rights violations against Uighurs.
Turkey, which shares linguistic and ethnic ties with the Uighurs, has been outspoken on the issue but most Muslim-majority countries have been muted in the face of China’s commercial and diplomatic power.


Man suspected of killing wife, three children in Australia fire

Updated 20 February 2020

Man suspected of killing wife, three children in Australia fire

  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country was ‘shocked, saddened and devastated’ by the tragedy
  • A passer-by who tried to intervene in the situation was also taken to hospital to be treated for facial burns

SYDNEY: An ex-rugby league player is suspected of murdering his three children and estranged wife in Australia by burning them alive inside their car, in what police described as one of the most horrific incidents they have encountered.

Officers said 31-year-old Hannah Clarke died in a Brisbane hospital on Wednesday just hours after her three children aged three, four and six were found dead in the car on a suburban street.

Her husband, Rowan Baxter, who also died, allegedly approached the vehicle and doused it with petrol before setting it alight, The Australian newspaper reported.

The paper said Clarke jumped from the burning car and rolled on the ground, saying “he’s poured petrol on me.”

Officials said she was rushed to hospital with severe burns following the “horrific” incident but later succumbed to her injuries.

Baxter, a 42-year-old former rugby league player for the New Zealand Warriors, was believed to be in the burning vehicle but got out and died on a footpath.

Queensland Police detective inspector Mark Thompson said Thursday that Baxter died as a result of burns and a self-inflicted wound.

“Information that’s to hand has led us to believe that the Baxter children and Hannah Clarke were killed and I don’t believe there’s any suspicious circumstances around the death of Rowan Baxter,” he said.

Clarke’s sister-in-law, Stacey Roberts, set up a fundraiser to pay for funeral costs and support Hannah’s parents, who she said had “exhausted themselves to try and help Hannah escape this monster.”

“All those who knew Hannah or had even just met her once would know how much of a beautiful soul she was. Her children (were) her life,” Roberts posted on Facebook.

The page has so far raised almost Aus$100,000 ($67,000).

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the country was “shocked, saddened and devastated” by the tragedy, which has led to an outpouring of grief on social media.

“Hannah and her three children were so senselessly and maddeningly murdered in what has occurred in a terrible act of violence and it just grieves our hearts terribly today,” he said.

Natasha Stott Despoja, a former senator and chair of anti-violence group Our Watch, called for stronger action to address violence against women in Australia, which she described as a “national emergency.”

“I know people want change, people are angry & sad today,” she tweeted. “How long before we stop this slaughter in our suburbs?“

A passer-by who tried to intervene in the situation was also taken to hospital to be treated for facial burns, a Queensland Ambulance Service spokesperson said.

The emergency responders who attended the scene have been stood down from their duties and will receive support, he added.