Sonny Bill Williams' support of the minority Uighur ethnic group in China has been labelled as "massive" by political scientist Professor Anne-Marie Brady.
The All Black mirrored the stance of football star Mesut Ozil which drew an angry response from China by Tweeting his support yesterday.
Cross-code star Williams may further provoke Chinese officialdom with his social media post, which denounces the treatment of Uighurs — a Muslim minority group native to Xinjiang, the supposedly autonomous region in China's northwest.
China has been systematically targeting them, incarcerating as many as two million in facilities it describes as "vocational training centres". In truth, they are modern day gulags where torture and other human rights abuses are rife.
In his tweet on Monday, Williams echoed the belief of Arsenal playmaker Ozil — who is also a practising Muslim — that more countries should speak out against China's reported actions of detaining Uighur people in "re-education camps".
"It's a sad time when we choose economic benefits over humanity #Uyghurs," Williams wrote, accompanied by an image illustrating oppression against the group.
University of Canterbury academic Brady said on Twitter that William's support was 'massive' and she thanked him for the courage to speak up,
Williams' tweet comes a month after he signed a lucrative deal with Canada-based Super League club, the Toronto Wolfpack, having ended a lengthy and successful career with the All Blacks.
It remains to be seen if there is a backlash from China against the 34-year-old Kiwi, who hasn't previously voiced his opinion on such a sensitive international topic.
China's state broadcaster removed the English Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester City from its programming in response to Ozil's actions. The German midfielder was also removed from a Chinese-produced soccer computer game.
Ozil, who is Muslim, described the Uighurs as "warriors who resist the persecution" and "glorious believers who are fighting alone against those who try to forcibly take them away from Islam".
"The brothers are forced into camps. Chinese men are settled in their families instead of them. The sisters are forced to marry Chinese men," he said on social media.
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"Despite all this, the Ummah (community) of Prophet Muhammad is silent. Doesn't say anything. Muslims are not supported. Don't they know that consenting to persecution is persecution?
"While these events have been on the agenda even in the Western media and states for months and weeks, where are the Muslim countries and their media? Don't they know that staying neutral when persecution is carried out is despicable? Don't they know that what our brothers and sisters will remember about these sad days, years later, is not the torture of the tyrants, but the silence of us, their Muslim brothers?"
Rugby league doesn't have the same presence in China as soccer or basketball's NBA, which paid a heavy financial price when an official criticised the Chinese government in October.
Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support of protesters in Hong Kong, sparking Chinese demands that he be fired, which were rejected by the NBA.
One of the most disturbing policies Ozil alluded to that has been implemented in the northwest region of China is a forced-living arrangement between Han Chinese men and Uighur women that's been likened to "mass rape".
As part of the "Pair Up and Become Family" program, Han Chinese men stay with and sleep in the same beds as Uighur women. According to the Chinese Government, the program is designed to "promote ethnic unity".
But to Rushan Abbas, a Uighur activist whose family members have been detained in the Xinjiang camps for more than a year, it's nothing more than systemised rape — part of the Government's brutal ongoing crackdown against the country's ethnic minority.
"This is mass rape," she told news.com.au. "The Government is offering money, housing and jobs to Han people to come and marry Uighur people.
"Neither the girls nor their families can reject such a marriage because they will be viewed (by Chinese authorities) as Islamic extremists for not wanting to marry atheist Han Chinese. They have no choice but to marry them.
"(The Han Chinese) have been raping Uighur women in the name of marriage for years. It took more than a year for the media to pick that up."