China: hero of the left

Discussion in 'Politics' started by traderob, Jun 7, 2020.

  1. traderob


    Soccer hero’s stunning YouTube tirade
    Retired Chinese football great Hao Haidong speaking to the media at Perry Park in Brisbane in 2015 during China’s AFC Asian Cup training. Picture: Josh Woning
    • By Didi Tang
    • The Times
    • 12:00AM June 7, 2020

    China’s greatest footballer has become a “non-person” overnight after denouncing the Communist Party and calling for regime change.

    Hao Haidong, 50, the country’s record goal scorer, who played briefly for Sheffield United and who now lives in Spain, appeared in a five-minute video on YouTube on Thursday in which he read out a declaration of the “Federal State of China” and demanded an end to communist rule.

    “The Chinese Communist Party is a terrorist organisation funded by the Communist International, which has subverted the legitimate Chinese government in the past,” Hao declared in the video, released on the eve of the 31st anniversary of Beijing’s crackdown of the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square.

    “Totalitarian rule in China has caused horrific atrocities against humanity, total disregard for human rights, the destruction of humanity, trampled all over democracy, violated the rule of law, dishonoured lawful agreements, caused great bloodshed in Hong Kong and exported corruption across the globe,” he said.

    “The crimes it has committed are too heinous to be tolerated! The elimination of the Chinese Communist Party is essential in breaking the shackles of slavery imposed on the Chinese people, and also in bringing about peace to the world. The New Federal State of China, as a country without the Chinese Communist Party, will be able to fulfil the needs of all Chinese people as well as ensure the prosperity of the world.”

    Chinese footballer Hao Haidong, wearing a bandage following a head injury, practising in Beijing in 2004. Picture: AFP
    He touched on sensitive topics, urging genuine autonomy for Hong Kong, Tibet and Taiwan, and accused Beijing of waging biological warfare on the world with the coronavirus pandemic, without providing any evidence.

    Moments after the video was posted online Hao lost his account on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, which had more than seven million followers. The account of his glamorous wife, Ye Zhaoying, a two-time badminton world champion, was also closed.

    The country’s main sports news sites immediately removed all articles about the couple, and one popular sports newspaper issued a statement condemning his “damaging of national sovereignty” and vowing never to report on him again.

    It referred to Hao only by the first letter of his surname.

    A search of Chinese sites yielded few hits or none at all of his name as censors cleansed the internet of his presence.

    Cannon Hao, as he is known, was in the squad that made China’s only World Cup appearance, in 2002. They left the tournament without scoring a goal in three games. He still holds the national scoring record with 41 goals in more than 100 appearances for China and is also the top scorer in the domestic league, with 96 goals.

    Hao Haidong celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the Asian Cup football quarter-final match against Iraq in Beijing in 2004. Picture: AFP
    He is known and loved by his fans as an outspoken critic of the sports establishment but this is the first time he has ventured into the political realm.

    His video was posted on the YouTube channel of Guo Wengui, the Chinese billionaire who fled the country amid allegations of financial misdeeds. Mr Guo is a friend of Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, and became a self-proclaimed whistleblower with unsubstantiated claims against the Chinese leadership.

    In the video Hao credited Mr Guo and Mr Bannon with exposing “the illegitimacy and true evil nature of the Chinese Communist Party”.

    The two men paid for planes to fly around the Statue of Liberty this week trailing banners hailing the new federal state of China, in both English and Chinese.

    The Times
  2. themickey


    Chinese soccer superstar calls for ouster of Communist Party, stunning nation
    Hao Haidong, in white jersey, during a quarterfinal match against Iraq at the Asian Cup soccer tournament in Beijing on July 30, 2004. (Wilson Chu/Reuters)
    By Gerry Shih
    June 5, 2020 at 7:14 p.m. GMT+8

    Chinese sports stars usually express thanks and offer platitudes about their government — if they address politics and power at all.
    Not Hao Haidong.

    The retired soccer forward — the Chinese national team’s all-time top goal scorer and an idol in the 1990s and early 2000s — stunned his country this week after he called for the downfall of the ruling Communist Party and the formation of a new government.

    In a highly unusual YouTube appearance as part of an apparent publicity campaign by the fugitive billionaire Guo Wengui, one of the Chinese government’s most reviled opponents, Hao read an 18-point manifesto for a vision of a “New Federal State of China.” Sitting for an accompanying hour-long interview alongside his wife, the badminton champion Ye Zhaoying, Hao launched into lengthy criticisms of the government’s handling of almost every domestically sensitive subject: Hong Kong, Tibet, the coronavirus pandemic.

    “This Communist Party should be kicked out of humanity,” Hao declared in videos released Thursday, on the politically sensitive anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

    Coming from an international athlete, Hao’s comments would be fiercely criticized by the Chinese government. Coming from a Chinese soccer legend, they were unthinkable, almost disorienting.

    By Thursday afternoon, Hao’s videos had caused a sensation in China even though they appeared on YouTube, a blocked platform. They seemed to confound Internet users and authorities alike. Was the entire episode fake? Should it be condemned or ignored?

    Titan, a leading state-run sports website, quickly issued a statement that said: “Hao Haidong has made a speech that subverts the government and harms national sovereignty and uses the coronavirus epidemic to smear the Chinese government and spread falsehoods about Hong Kong. . . . We strongly condemn this behavior.”

    Shortly after, the statement was edited to replace Hao’s name, which had become sensitive, with the Roman letter “H.” Hours after that, the statement was removed outright as the government opted to erase all mention of the incident on the domestic Internet, as if it had never happened.

    Hao’s Weibo social media account, which had close to 8 million followers, vanished. Hupu, a leading online hangout for Chinese sports fans, warned users against all discussion of Hao’s “harmful remarks.” Then the warning disappeared, too.

    Within 24 hours, according to the Internet monitor, Hao’s name had become the most heavily censored term on Weibo — topping even “6-4,” the perennially censored reference to the Tiananmen crackdown on June 4, 1989.

    On Friday, the government addressed the videos for the first time, dismissing Hao’s statements as farce. “I don’t have any interest in commenting,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

    Hao, who is believed to live in Spain after retiring as China’s greatest striker, has been known for sharply criticizing Chinese soccer authorities, but not the ruling party itself. At one point in his videos, he says his disillusionment with the corrupt sports system morphed into a deeper discontent. He also lambasted the prevalence of fraud and a lack of social welfare.

    His salvo couldn’t be seen as a gauge of popular sentiment toward the party, but Hao is probably the highest-profile Chinese national to speak out so forcefully against the country’s political leadership under the rule of President Xi Jinping.

    Hao’s videos amounted to a minor publicity coup for Guo, the New York-based businessman who has been sought by Chinese authorities on a string of charges, including fraud, blackmail and bribery.

    After fleeing China, Guo, who once worked closely with top Chinese intelligence officials, refashioned himself in 2017 as an anti-government crusader who promised to topple the Communist Party by revealing its secrets on his YouTube channel. Despite dominating Chinese political chatter in 2017, many of Guo’s disclosures emerged to be unsubstantiated or fake, and his profile waned.

    The former real estate developer hired Stephen K. Bannon, the former White House chief strategist and China critic, in 2018 on a multimillion-dollar deal to promote him in the United States, according to Axios.

    As Guo’s YouTube channel aired Hao’s videos this week, it also showed Guo and Bannon in a boat in the New York Bay floating in front of the Statue of Liberty, from where Bannon read an English version of a manifesto calling for the creation of a new China.
  3. themickey