Antoine Griezmann Cuts Ties With China's Huawei Over Treatment of Uyghurs

Barcelona and France star Antoine Griezmann has severed ties with Chinese tech giant Huawei over the company alleged role in developing a facial recognition software to allow Chinese police forces to survey Uyghur Muslims.

In a report published earlier this week, US-based surveillance research IPVM claimed Huawei had been involved in testing a facial recognition technology that could send alerts to law enforcement officers when it detected the features of members of the Uyghur minority.

Griezmann, who has been an ambassador of the tech giant since 2017, announced on Instagram on Thursday that he no longer wished to be associated with the brand and was ending its collaboration with the company effective immediately.

"Following strong suspicions that Huawei has contributed to the development of a 'Uyghurs alert' through the use of facial recognition software, I am immediately ending my partnership with the company," the 2018 World Cup winner wrote in a post on his Instagram profile.

The Barcelona forward then elaborated further on his stance, calling for the tech behemoth to publicly condemn what he described as "mass prosecution" perpetrated against Uyghurs.

"I am taking this opportunity to invite Huawei to not just be happy with denying these accusations but to implement action as quickly as possible to condemn this mass persecution and use its influence to contribute to respecting rights of men and women throughout society," he added.

Griezmann isn't the first soccer star to publicly criticize the treatment of Uyghurs in China. A year ago, Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil described Uyghurs in China's north-western region of Xinjiang as "warriors who resist persecution" and criticized the worldwide Muslim community for remaining silent on the matter.

"[In China] Qurans are burned, mosques were closed down, Islamic theological schools, madrasas were banned, religious scholars were killed one by one," the 2014 World Cup winner, who was born in Germany to Turkish parents, wrote in an Instagram post.

"Despite all this, Muslims stay quiet."

Ozil's post prompted a huge backlash on social media in China, while Arsenal distanced itself from the statement, claiming the views expressed in the post were merely the player's "personal opinion" and did not represent the club's stance.

"Arsenal has always adhered to the principle of not involving itself in politics"

Beijing has come under mounting international pressure over its policies in the Xinjiang region, where human rights groups and a panel from the United Nations have estimated approximately one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are held in internment camps.

China has repeatedly refuted the accusations, insisting the camps are simply "vocational centers" whose goal is to eradicate terrorism, improve employment opportunities and re-train inmates.

The camps, Beijing has previously argued, are necessary to reduce and eliminate the growing influence of violent Islamist groups and separatist movements that have launched attacks on Chinese citizens.

They argue they are a necessary antidote to the influence of violent separatist and Islamist groups that have launched attacks on Chinese citizens across the country, killing dozens.

To Beijing's critics, however, the camps are part of the Chinese Communist Party's brutal effort to remove any sign of an alternative to the dominant Han Chinese culture.

The effort has also included razing homes, cemeteries and mosques, a campaign which critics have described as "cultural genocide."

Antoine Griezmann of Barcelona
Antoine Griezmann of FC Barcelona during the UEFA Champions League Group G stage match against Juventus at Camp Nou on December 8 in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona qualified for the round of 16 despite losing 3-0. David Ramos/Getty