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China TV network cancels soccer broadcast after player criticizes country's treatment of Muslims

Mesut Ozil of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Brighton & Hove Albion at Emirates Stadium on May 5, 2019 in London.
David Price | Arsenal FC | Getty Images

China's state-run broadcaster CCTV canceled the broadcast of a soccer game on Sunday after a star player criticized the country's treatment of Muslims.

The match between England's Arsenal and Manchester City teams was removed from CCTV's schedule after Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil posted comments on social media about the treatment of Uighur Muslims in China.

On Friday, Ozil, a Turkish-German Muslim, called Uighurs "warriors who resist persecution" and criticized China and the silence of Muslims in response, according to a BBC report.

The Global Times, a Chinese English-language newspaper, called Ozil's comments "false" and said he had "disappointed Chinese fans and football governing authorities," via its Twitter account on Sunday.

According to U.S. thinktank the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), around a million Uighur Muslims have been detained in "re-education" camps in Xinjiang, a province in north west China.

China has described the camps as places for vocational training, but classified documents leaked to news organizations last month revealed a deliberate strategy to lock up ethnic minorities even though they had not committed any crimes, according to an AP report.

Arsenal has sought to distance itself from Ozil's comments. "Following social media messages from Mesut Ozil on Friday, Arsenal Football Club must make it clear that these are Mesut's personal views. Arsenal is always apolitical as an organization," an Arsenal Football Club spokesperson said in a statement emailed to CNBC on Monday.

Manchester City beat Arsenal 3-0 at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium in London on Sunday. CCTV broadcast a match between Tottenham Hotspur and the Wolverhampton Wanderers instead.