Football superstar Lionel Messi has been criticised for promoting several apps and video games that are part of what Human Rights Watch has described as China’s network of censorship and surveillance

Messi earned ire from Chinese fans last month for missing a match in Hong Kong

Messi earned ire from Chinese fans last month for missing a match in Hong Kong 

Chinese fans slam Lionel Messi for sitting out HK match but playing in  Japan days after
Football icon Lionel Messi has been slammed for backing a Chinese firm accused of aiding regime spying.

The Inter Miami captain collaborated with Tencent, described by Human Rights Watch as “part of the Chinese government’s censorship and surveillance”.

The link emerged after the Argentinian forward, 36, faced a backlash from Chinese fans last month when he missed a friendly match in Hong Kong with his David Beckham-owned club.

In November 2022, Messi promoted PUBG Mobile, a video game by LightSpeed Studios, part of Tencent Games. And he earlier starred in TV ads for Tencent-owned social media site WeChat.

MLS - Inter Miami : Comment Lionel Messi Messi a irrité Hong Kong -  Eurosport
Human Rights Watch’s Maya Wang said: “WeChat [is] a virtual ecosystem that helps the Chinese government extend its repression, surveillance and censorship. Celebrities… need to do their due diligence to make sure their actions do not contribute to human rights abuses.”

Amnesty International UK’s Peter Frankental added: “By fronting ad campaigns for Tencent, Messi lends it and their products his star power, and risks giving them valuable credibility.”

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Messi said he did not play in Hong Kong due to injury, denying talk of it being for “political reasons”.

Messi no longer has a relationship with Tencent as his PUBG deal ended after the 2022 World Cup. Tencent did not comment.

A representative for Messi was contacted for comment.