DHARAMSALA, 11 Dec: Celebrated France and Barcelona striker Antonio Griezmann has parted ways with Huawei over ‘strong suspicions that the Chinese tech giant’s involvement in the surveillance of the Uighur Muslims.
“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 in a statement he issued on his 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,” he added.
Huawei has however denied employing their “technology to identify ethnic groups” and stated that “they 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.”
It is not compatible with the values of Huawei. Our technologies are not designed to identify ethnic groups. Non-discrimination is at the heart of our values as a company,” The Guardian quoted a Huawei spokesperson as saying in its report.
The 29-year-old footballer who was a key member of the France team that won the 2018 World Cup in Russia was a global brand ambassador for Huawei since 2017 has appeared in advertisements promoting the company’s smartphones.
Griezmann is the latest football superstar to have expressed concerns over China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims in East Turkistan.
In Dec 2019, Arsenal FC’s star player Mesut Ozil criticised Beijing for its ongoing human rights abuses and persecution of Uighur Muslims and berated fellow Muslims for failing to speak up.
Days later, New Zealand rugby star Sonny Bill Williams, the world’s best-paid rugby player followed Ozil and took to the social media to condemn China’s treatment of its Uighur minority while criticising others for choosing “economic benefits over humanity.”
While Ozil, a world cup winner and one of the best-paid footballer in the English league’s career started waning after his vocal support for Uighurs to an extent that he has been left out of the player roster now, former Chelsea striker Demba Ba took to the social media to criticise Arsenal’s action over Ozil’s remark on Uighur Muslims’ plight in China.
Ba, a Muslim from Senegal has told BBC that he “believes players are being pressured to stay silent on such matters,” and called them to stand up for Uighur Muslims and condemn China’s treatment of the minority group regardless of the financial consequences.
Additionally, a series of high-profile sports stars in France have joined a social media campaign “to raise awareness of China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.”
Several big-name French soccer players such as Current Fiorentina winger and Bayern Munich icon Franck Ribéry, Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly, and Barcelona wunderkind Ousmane Dembele took part in the campaign started by French politician Raphaël Glucksmann.
Earlier in August this year, Swedish singer Zara Larsson ended her collaboration with China’s Huawei to promote its smartphones and declared her support to Uighurs.
Though the UN experts and activists say at least one million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims are held in the detention centres in East Turkistan, Beijing maintains that the camps are voluntary education and training centre.
Huawei is said to have close links with the Chinese military, as its founder Ren Zhengfei was a former officer at the People’s Liberation Army, besides selling cell phones, it also sells equipment that is part of the global roll-out of the fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks which experts say could be used for undetected surveillance or intelligence gathering by the communist regime.