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Antoine Griezmann breaks his contract with Huawei brand suspected of helping China monitor Uighurs

Photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash

FC Barcelona’s Antoine Griezmann has ended his collaboration with smartphone brand Huawei, the striker announced on his Instagram on December 10th. The 29-year old footballer has been a brand ambassador for Huawei since 2017.

Posting to his 32 million followers, he wrote:

“Following the strong suspicion that Huawei has contributed to the development of a “Uighur Alert” through facial recognition software, I am announcing that I am putting an immediate end to my partnership with this company.”

These are the words of the 29-year-old footballer who no longer wishes to cooperate with a brand accused of collaborating with Chinese authorities to monitor the Uighur Muslim minority. In his Instagram post, he even goes so far as to ask the brand to respond to the allegations:

“I take this opportunity to invite Huawei not to be satisfied with denying these accusations but to take concrete actions as soon as possible to condemn this mass repression.”

This partnership with the Chinese brand brought nearly 20 million euros per year to the French player. With this strong gesture, Antoine Griezmann silenced all the detractors who could accuse the footballers of taking care only of their money and of never committing to important causes. “Grizi”, as he is called in the world of football, also recalls that he is a committed footballer. On November 26, he already posted on his Twitter account this sentence “My France hurts” accompanied by a photo of a person disfigured after having suffered police violence in France.

Did Huawei work on facial recognition?

It all started on December 7. In an IPVM study taken up by the Washington Post, Huawei is questioned for its involvement in testing a detection software. In an internal report, the brand claims to have worked with Chinese start-up Megvii to develop a facial recognition system. A software that would be able to estimate sex, age, ethnic origin and provide “alerts to the presence of Uighurs”. However, surprisingly, this file found on Huawei’s website was removed just after the Washington Post tried to contact the brand before the publication of their article on this topic.

After the decision taken by Antoine Griezmann to break his partnership with the famous smartphone brand, Huawei France responded:

“We are not developing algorithms or applications in the field of facial recognition but only technologies. general purpose that are based on international standards for machine learning and artificial intelligence.”

In contrast to this statement, according to Human Rights Watch association, Muslims had been arrested in the Chinese region of Xinjiang last week after being reported by a software identifying “suspicious behaviours“. This is not the first time that Chinese companies have been accused of collaborating with the country’s authorities. Already in the past, many of them have been suspected of creating facial recognition software to identify Uighur-looking people.

Fortunately today there are still people who use their notoriety to send strong messages like Antoine Griezmann. His decision to break his contract with Huawei has caused a stir around the world and has further broken the line between football and politics. Besides, this especially caused reactions in France, the country where Antoine Griezmann was born and for which he wears the national jersey. Journalists, athletes, politicians, they all congratulated the French player for his courageous gesture.

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