Antoine Griezmann has cut commercial ties with Huawei, saying there are strong suspicions the Chinese tech giant has contributed to the repression of Uighur Muslims.
The 29-year-old Barcelona forward’s announcement followed media reports Huawei allegedly tested facial recognition software intended to help China’s surveillance of the Muslim minority group.
China has repeatedly denied any mistreatment of Muslims, despite the United Nations and human rights groups saying that more than one million people, mostly Uighurs, have been detained in harsh conditions in Xinjiang.
“Following strong suspicions that Huawei 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,” Griezmann said in an Instagram post.
“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.”
Griezmann was a global brand ambassador for Huawei and has appeared in advertisements promoting the company’s smartphones.
A Huawei spokesperson told Sky Sports News in a statement: “Huawei is obviously saddened by the decision of Mr. Griezmann to end his relationship with the company.
“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.
“We are grateful to the media for drawing this matter to our attention.”