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 covid-19 pandemic.
“This Communist Party should be kicked out of humanity,” Hao declared in the videos released Thursday, on the politically sensitive anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. …
But just like the communist-leaning PC crowd in the West, he was soon denied a platform by the communist CPP in the East. No debate, just shut up.
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 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 erase all mention of the incident on the domestic Internet as if it 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.”
The warning, too, disappeared.
Within 24 hours, according to the Internet monitor freeweibo.com, 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 video as farce. “I don’t have any interest in commenting,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.
Hao will need to get a blog, or maybe write articles for Ron Unz.