December 11 – Barcelona’s French international forward and World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann, who has been an ambassador for tech giant Huawei, has cut commercial ties with the company citing China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims.
US-based surveillance research firm IPVM said in a report earlier this week that Huawei had been involved in testing facial recognition software in China that could send alerts to police when it recognised Uighur minorities’ faces.
“Following strong suspicions that Huawei has contributed to the development of a ‘Uighurs alert’ through the use of facial recognition software, I am immediately ending my partnership with the company,” Griezmann said on Instagram.
“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.”
China has come under intense global condemnation over its policy in the Xinjiang territory. The United Nations estimates that more than a million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims have been detained though China has denied any abuses and says its camps in the region provide vocational training and help fight extremism.
Griezmann has featured prominently in a giant advertising campaign for the company in France and his decision comes at a time when French sports figures, especially high-profile footballers, are increasingly making their voice heard on social and political issues.
A Huawei spokesperson said the Chinese company was saddened by Griezmann’s decision.
“We would like to extend an invitation to speak to him personally, to explain the work that is currently being done at the highest level, inside the company, to address the issues of human rights, equality, and discrimination at all levels,” the spokesperson said.
A year ago, Arsenal and former Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil, a German Muslim of Turkish origin also criticised China’s treatment of the Uighurs, promoting a strong backlash against him in the country.
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org