Arsenal star Mesut Ozil is to be deleted from a popular computer game in China following his criticism of the country's treatment of their Uighur Muslim population.
NetEase publishes the Chinese version of the Pro Evolution Soccer franchise and released a statement on social media explaining the omission from three versions of the 2020 game, which include mobile and online versions.
"The German player Ozil posted an extreme statement about China on social media," NetEase said on Chinese social media site Weibo. "The speech hurt the feelings of Chinese fans and violated the sports spirit of love and peace. We do not understand, accept or forgive this!"
On Friday, Ozil criticised what he described as Chinese persecution towards the Uighurs and lamented the silence of his fellow Muslims.
"[In China] Qurans are burned, mosques were closed down, Islamic theological schools, madrasas were banned, religious scholars were killed one by one. Despite all this, Muslims stay quiet," Ozil wrote to his 24.4 million followers on Twitter.
According to a United Nations report in 2018, there are over one million Uighurs detained in internment camps in the Xinjiang region.
The remarks caused outrage in China and state television pulled a planned live broadcast of Arsenal's Premier League game against Manchester City on Sunday.
A source at Chinese Central Television told ESPN that there is little prospect of Arsenal's games being shown in the country for the foreseeable future if Ozil remains at the club.
Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said on Monday that Ozil was the victim of misinformation. Ozil must have been blinded by some fake news and untrue comments, Geng said at a Beijing news conference before inviting Ozil to the region.
"We welcome Ozil to travel around Xinjiang and have a look. As long as he has a conscience, knows right from wrong and upholds the principle of objectivity and justice, he will find a Xinjiang that's different from what he thought," Geng said.