World Cup-winning footballer Antoine Griezmann said on Thursday that he terminated his sponsorship contract with Huawei due to reports that the Chinese telecom giant was involved in the surveillance of Uighur Muslims.
Frenchman Griezmann said on Instagram: “After strong suspicions that Huawei has contributed to the development of a ‘Uighur warning’ through the use of face recognition software, I immediately end my partnership with the company.”
US-based surveillance research firm IPVM said in a report on Tuesday that Huawei had been involved in testing face recognition software in China that could send warnings to police when it recognized the faces of Uighur minorities.
China has come under intense international criticism over its policies in the resource-rich Xinjiang Territory, where rights groups say as many as one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been held in detention camps.
China defends the camps as vocational training centers aimed at eradicating terrorism and improving employment opportunities.
Griezmann, a 29-year-old forward who was one of the leading members of the France team that won the 2018 World Cup in Russia, has been a brand ambassador for Huawei since 2017.
He has been prominent in a giant advertising campaign for the company in France.
In its post on Thursday, Barcelona called on Huawei to “not be content to deny the allegations but to take concrete action to condemn this mass repression and use its influence to contribute to respect for men’s and women’s rights”.
Vocal football player
Griezmann made his name with Real Sociedad in Spain before moving to Atletico Madrid in 2014.
He joined Barcelona in a deal worth 120 million euros ($ 145.5 million) in 2019 and is expected to be part of the French squad for next year’s European Championships.
His decision to terminate his Huawei contract comes at a time when French sports figures, especially high-profile footballers, are increasingly being heard on social and political issues.
In posts on his social media accounts last month, Griezmann expressed his concern over a video showing French police beating a music producer. The video was one of the factors that led President Emmanuel Macron to declare that there is an “urgent need” to reform the police.
On Wednesday, the Paris Saint-Germain team with Griezmann’s World Cup teammate Kylian Mbappé went off the field with their opponents from Istanbul Basaksehir in protest against alleged racist language used by a match official in a Champions League game.
Huawei became the world’s best mobile phone seller earlier this year.
( Jowharwith AFP)