Antoine Griezmann has severed ties with one his sponsors, Huawei, over "strong suspicions" they are making technology that is repressing Uighur Muslims in China.
The Barcelona star took to social media to announce his decision following reports that the telecommunications equipment company has been trialling facial recognition software designed to improve China's surveillance of Uighurs.
Griezmann has condemned alleged mistreatment of the minority ethnic group, which is predominantly made up of Muslims, and has urged Huawei to use their influence to address a troubling human rights issue.
“Following strong suspicions that the Huawei company has contributed to the development of a ‘Uighur alert’ thanks to facial recognition software, I am announcing the immediate termination of my partnership with the company,” the French striker said on Instagram.
“I take this opportunity to invite Huawei to not just deny these accusations, but to take concrete actions as quickly as possible to condemn this mass repression, and to use its influence to contribute to the respect of human and women’s rights in society.”
Huawei has responded to Griezmann's post by offering to sit down with the 29-year-old to clarify the situation, while insisting that the company will not tolerate discrimination in any form.
"Huawei is obviously saddened by the decision of Mr. Griezmann to end his relationship with the company," the Chinese multinational organisation said in a statement to Goal.
"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, and to reassure him, and all our customers and partners, that Huawei takes these concerns very seriously.
"The language used in the document he refers to in the news reports is completely unacceptable. It was not Huawei’s language, rather descriptions of functions provided by the company Megvii. 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.
"Furthermore, the person responsible for approving the document was not a Huawei employee, but rather was a subcontractor.
"This mistake was three years ago. He was clearly not aligned with our company’s values.
"Since then the company has made substantial progress. Indeed, Huawei is a signatory to the UNGC which states 'businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights.'"
By James Westwood
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