Arsenal has distanced itself from comments made by its star midfielder Mesut Ozil about the plight of Uighur Muslims.
Ozil had criticised China amid allegations that the minority has suffered religious and ethnic persecution at the hands of Chinese authorities.
In a post on Instagram, the footballer had written: “(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.”
The Premier League club has now moved to limit the damage to its business interests in China, where it has a number of commercial enterprises including a chain of restaurants.
In a statement on Weibo, China’s most popular social media site, Arsenal said: “Regarding the comments made by Mesut Ozil on social media, Arsenal must make a clear statement.
“The content published is Ozil’s personal opinion. As a football club, Arsenal has always adhered to the principle of not involving itself in politics.”
There have been several angry replies to Arsenal’s post on Weibo. One showed a shredded Ozil shirt next to a pair of scissors, while another called for the footballer to be expelled from the club.
“Ozil issues inappropriate statement” had been one of the top trending topics on Weibo, but searching for the hashtag now returns no results, according to Reuters.
Discussion of sensitive topics is frequently censored on the social network.
The UN and human rights groups estimate that up to two million people, mostly Uighur Muslims, have been detained in harsh conditions in Xinjiang.
China has repeatedly denied any mistreatment of Uighurs.
In November, leaked documents emerged that contradicted government claims that the detention camps were voluntary training centres.
Classified documents appeared to confirm the testimony of many former detainees that they are centres for forced ideological and behavioural re-education.
China’s embassy in the UK dismissed that leak as a “fabrication and fake news”.