Mesut Ozil has “a right to express his opinion” but does not speak for Arsenal in his criticism of China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims, says Arsene Wenger.
Midfielder Ozil, who is a Muslim, called Uighurs “warriors who resist persecution” and criticised both China and the silence of Muslims in response.
Arsenal said the club is “apolitical” and China’s foreign ministry claimed Ozil was “deceived by fake news”.
What he says is about himself and not Arsenal,” said ex-Gunners boss Wenger.
“Mesut Ozil has freedom of speech like everyone else and he uses his notoriety to express his opinions, which are not necessarily shared by everybody.
“What’s important is that Ozil has an individual responsibility. He doesn’t have to carry the word of Arsenal Football Club. When you make a comment about your individual opinion you accept the consequences of it.”
Rights groups say about a million people – mostly from the Muslim Uighur community – are thought to have been detained without trial in high-security prison camps.
China has consistently denied mistreating Uighur Muslims in the country and says they are being educated in “vocational training centres” to combat violent religious extremism.
Secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain Harun Khan said Ozil’s actions were “hugely commendable” and described Arsenal’s decision to distance themselves from the 31-year-old German’s views as “regrettable”.