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.


At least 16 dead as India airliner crashes on landing

Updated 28 min 46 sec ago

At least 16 dead as India airliner crashes on landing

  • The Air India Express plane from Dubai had 191 passengers and crew on board when it overshot the runway
  • There were 10 infants on board

NEW DELHI: At least 16 people were killed Friday when a passenger jet overshot and skidded off the runway as it landed in southern India, breaking into two pieces, officials said.
Dozens of people were injured, 15 of them seriously, after the Air India Express Boeing 737 originating from Dubai touched down in Kozhikode in heavy rain.
The airline said more than 190 passengers and crew were on board the plane that, according to the aviation ministry, plunged 10 meters (35 feet) down a slope off the end of the raised so-called table-top runway.
Television footage showed the fuselage of the jet ripped apart and surrounded by emergency personnel working in the dark, spraying the wreckage with water although there was no sign of any fire.
Sakeen K., the district medical officer in the nearby city of Malappuram, said that 16 people had died.
“We are still ascertaining the toll,” she told AFP.
Kozhikode official Seeram Sambasiva said that the two pilots were among the dead.
Senior local policeman Abdul Karim told AFP said that another 15 passengers “have critical injuries. It is still a developing situation.”
“We have at least 89 people, many of them with serious injuries, admitted at different Kozhikode hospitals. The ambulances are still coming in,” said Sujith Das, another senior police official.
“We have been told that all those who have survived the crash also have some form of injuries.”
Aviation regulator DGCA said the plane skidded off the end of the runway and “fell down in the valley and broke down in two pieces.”
Four people were still stuck inside the plane. media reports said.
One television channel reported there had been a problem with the jet’s landing gear.
Air India Express said in a statement that there was “no fire reported at the time of landing.”
It said there were 174 passengers, 10 infants, two pilots and five cabin crew on board the aircraft.
The plane was one of dozens in recent weeks to repatriate some of the thousands of Indians left stranded abroad by the coronavirus pandemic, many of them in Gulf countries.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences.
“My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest... Authorities are at the spot, providing all assistance to the affected,” Modi said.
The last major plane crash in India was in 2010 when an Air India Express Boeing 737-800 from Dubai to Mangalore overshot the runway and burst into flames.
The crash killed 158 people and left eight survivors.
Kerala has been battered by heavy rains in recent days.
At least 15 people were killed on Friday after a landslide triggered by heavy rains flattened a row of huts elsewhere in the state.
Around 50 other people were feared trapped in the debris. The dead included two children.