Football star of PES Mobile in China pulled after criticism of the government

An English Premier League football player was removed from the mobile version of Pro Evolution Soccer 2020 in China after criticizing the treatment of ethnic Muslims in the western provinces.

The South China Morning Post’s Abacus blog reports on the removal of Arsenal’s midfielder Mesut Özil from three games released by NetEase in China, including PES 2020 Mobile. NetEase announced the removal of Özil on Weibo (a counterpart to Twitter in the microblogging area), adding that the company does not “understand, accept, or forgive” Özil’s behavior.

Özil, a German player of Turkish descent, used social media last week to highlight China’s treatment of the Uyghur minority. It has been a long-standing international controversy that has gained new life since China reports that what it calls “apprentices” in a center of “re-education camps” has “graduated.” In reality, China has more than 1 million Uighurs and other ethnic groups detaining Muslims in concentration camps in the west of the country.

Özil’s social media posts accused the Chinese government of burning the Koran and closing mosques, in addition to being detained in the re-education camps, Abacus said. Özil also criticized other Muslims for either saying nothing or not saying more about China’s treatment of the Uighurs. Beijing said Özil was misled by “false news”. In August 2018, a United Nations human rights body said it had received numerous credible reports of the detentions and the number of Uighurs they had captured.

The disappearance of Özil from a cell phone game is the latest example of China’s willingness to silence or reject any outside criticism of complicated or controversial issues, from treating the Uyghurs to demonstrations in Hong Kong. Sometimes the Chinese government doesn’t even have to say anything so that companies doing business there can act quickly on their behalf.

In October, Blizzard Entertainment not only suspended a Hearthstone professional who used a program to make statements for protesters in Hong Kong, but also fired the two casters who moderated the show. J. Allen Brack, President of Blizzard, later apologized at BlizzCon 2019 and said, “We made our decision too quickly.” However, the company did not lift the ban on Blitzchung, which had been shortened to six months after a violent public reaction. (The two roles were also banned for six months.)

In the same week, the NBA had affected China’s hostility to criticism when Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets (the most popular team in China), also tweeted in support of protesters in Hong Kong. The league, which has a significant business presence in China, almost immediately rejected Morey’s statements. Just like Morey’s own boss.

A pre-season game between Brooklyn and the Los Angeles Lakers was still in Shanghai, but was not aired, and in response, press conferences for players and league officials were canceled. The Chinese basketball association, whose president is Rockets-Hall of Famer Yao Ming, announced that he would also stop working with the Houston team.

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