Sonny Bill Williams issues message of support for Uyghurs

Sonny Bill Williams

Former New Zealand All Black Sonny Bill Williams has followed Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil and issued a message of support for the Uyghur Muslims in China.

The 34-year-old, who now played for Canadian-based British Super League club Toronto Wolfpack, converted to Islam in 2009.

Williams suggested on Twitter that greater pressure should be placed on China for its treatment of the minority group.

“It’s a sad time when we choose economic benefits over humanity Uyghurs,” Williams wrote, with an image included depicting Chinese oppression against the group.

Last week Ozil called Uyghurs “warriors who resist persecution” and criticised both China’s crackdown and the silence of Muslims in response, with Arsenal distancing themselves from the comments.

The former Germany World Cup winner, a practising Muslim of Turkish descent, was subsequently then removed from China’s version of the Pro Evolution Soccer 2020 video game.

The post made by Ozil on Instagram also led to China’s state broadcaster CCTV refusing to televise Arsenal’s Premier League match against Manchester City last Sunday.

China’s foreign ministry said Ozil was “deceived by fake news” as social media platforms in the country including Weibo were flooded with angry messages.

The Uyghurs are ethnically Turkic Muslims who live in western China – predominantly in the autonomous region of Xinjiang. They make up under half of the region’s roughly 26 million people.

In 2018, a UN rights committee was told there were credible allegations that China had “turned the region into something that resembles a massive internment camp.”

Rights groups say those in camps are made to learn Mandarin Chinese, swear their loyalty to Chinese president Xi Jinping, and even renounce their faith in some instances. Leaked documents seen by the BBC showed that inmates were locked up, indoctrinated and punished.

But the Chinese government says these camps are voluntary, and that they offer education and training to counter extremism.

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