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Rugby superstar follows Ozil in China criticism

Sonny Bill Williams has stepped into the row over China’s treatment of Uighurs following footballer Mesut Ozil’s comments earlier this month © AFP/File / ISABEL INFANTES

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, Dec 23New Zealand rugby superstar Sonny Bill Williams followed Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil in criticising China’s treatment of its Uighur minority Monday, while lamenting that some had chosen money over “humanity”.

As the fallout from Ozil’s condemnation of China’s crackdown on Muslim minorities continues, Williams — a double rugby union World Cup winner with the All Blacks who converted to Islam — weighed in.

“It’s a sad time when we choose economic benefits over humanity,” he posted on Twitter, with an illustration of a hand emblazoned with the Chinese flag gripping another hand with the flag of “East Turkestan” –the term many Uighur separatists use for Xinjiang — and dripping with blood.

China had responded furiously to Ozil’s attack on Beijing policies that human rights grous and experts say have seen widespread human rights abuses and an estimated one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities jailed.

Ozil was deleted from Chinese versions of the popular Pro Evolution Soccer computer game and Chinese state television pulled the broadcast of an Arsenal match against Manchester City.

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 had tweeted in Turkish: “Korans 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.

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