A Lithuanian football club’s sponsorship deal with a Chinese state-controlled company has attracted criticism. The video surveillance equipment maker Hikvision has been implicated in human rights violations in China and putting its name on a stadium would be a “spit in the face” of people oppressed by the Chinese government, a Lithuanian MP insists.
FK Sūduva, a football club in Lithuania’s western town of Marijampolė, presented Hikvision as its new general sponsor on Tuesday. As part of the deal, Marijampolė Stadium will bear company’s name.
The 6.74-million-euro company is majority-owned by the Chinese state and was sanctioned by the US government last October for its role in surveillance of Uyghurs in Xinjiang and of other ethnic and religious minorities in China.
Mantas Adomėnas, a conservative member of the Lithuanian parliament, has criticised the Lithuanian club for the sponsorship deal with Hikvision.
“It’s a state-controlled company whose technology is used to surveil, imprison, monitor and make life unbearable for Chinese dissidents, Uyghurs, a million of whom have been sent to concentration camps, and persecuted religious minorities,” Adomėnas said.
“It’s like naming the stadium ‘Gulag’ or ‘Gestapo’,” he added.
Vidmantas Murauskas, the chairman of FK Sūduva, has rejected the criticism, saying that the deal was signed with the Lithuanian division of the company and, moreover, Hikvision has been sponsoring other sports teams around Europe.
“Since they [Hikvision] are sponsoring clubs like Ajax Amsterdam, I don’t see a problem here,” Murauskas told LRT.lt.
He added that the company was simply promoting its products, which are sold in Lithuania. “I have or see no ties with the Chinese government,” according to him.
Responding to Adomėnas’ comments, he said that “people are free citizens and can criticise if they don’t trust something”.
In a comment to LRT.lt, the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said FK Sūduva’s sponsorship deal was legal, since Hikvision is not under European Union sanctions, but not advisable.
“Sanctions by third-party subjects, like the US, are not legally binding for European Union subjects,” the ministry said. “However, the MFA always recommends abstaining from business deals with subjects in any [sanction] lists, including by third countries.”