June 5, 2020 / 9:37 AM / a month ago

China says ex-soccer star's call for ouster of Communist Party is 'absurd'

BEIJING (Reuters) - China on Friday called retired soccer star Hao Haidong’s remarks “absurd” after the celebrated player called for the ouster of the ruling Communist Party in a video released on Thursday, the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

FILE PHOTO: China's striker Hao haidong (white jersey) and Iraq's Basim Abbas chase a loose ball during a quarterfinal match at the Asian Cup Soccer in Beijing July 30, 2004. REUTERS/Wilson Chu/File Photo

“To these absurd statements, to this farce, I don’t have any interest in commenting,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular briefing, when asked to comment on Hao’s call for a “New Federal State of China”

Hao, who was a major star in the 1990s and 2000s and led China to its only World Cup finals appearance in 2002, spoke in a 53-minute interview on the YouTube channel of fugitive billionaire Guo Wengui, who is close to former Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon.

“I think the Chinese people should not be trampled upon by the Chinese Communist Party any more. I think this Communist Party should be kicked out of humanity. This is the conclusion I reached after 50 years of living,” he says in the video.

Hao, 50, had been outspoken on social issues and has criticised the Chinese football establishment, earning the nickname “Cannon Hao”, but had not previously spoken out against the Communist Party.

It is extremely rare for high-profile Chinese citizens to openly criticise the government, given China’s hard line on dissent.

In a separate video, Hao read from a “declaration” of the “New Federal State of China”.

On Wednesday, Guo and Bannon livestreamed from a boat in New York Harbor, where a group of propeller planes trailed banners that read “New Federal State of China”.

Also known as Miles Kwok, Guo left China in 2014 and has been using YouTube to accuse senior Chinese officials of wrongdoing.

Hao, who is known to have a residence in Spain, appeared in the video with his wife, former badminton champion Ye Zhaoying.

His Weibo account, which had more than 7 million followers, was removed from the Twitter-like platform on Thursday. All entries on him on Zhihu, a popular question-and-answer website, had also been removed.

Reporting by Huizhong Wu and Tony Munroe; Editing by Giles Elgood

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