Beijing [China], June 11 (ANI): Two of China's famous athletes -- retired soccer star Hao Haidong and his wife, former badminton world champion Ye Zhaoying - have denounced the ruling Communist Party, reported The Wall Street Journal.
The couple appeared on a video live-stream this month to voice support for a fugitive Chinese businessman's self-professed campaign to topple the Communist Party.
The denouncing was a stunning display for the country used to seeing its sporting heroes heap praises on authorities.
In a Skype interview with The Wall Street Journal from their home in Spain, they doubled down on their calls for the party to be "kicked off the stage of history".
"After retiring, we could have joined the system and become officials," but chose not to, Ye said in the interview to The Journal on Tuesday. "It is the system that obliterates people's sense of humanity."
In a country where criticism of the government and its policies is frowned upon, it is virtually unheard of a Chinese sports star to openly criticise the Communist Party.
While Hao is regarded as one of China's best-ever strikers, Ye is one of China's greatest badminton players, winning the world championship twice and reaching the world No. 1 ranking during the 1990s.
After the live stream, Titan Sports, an influential Chinese Sports newspaper condemned Hao and vowed never to publish stories on him.
In Tuesday's interview, the couple said they have long been disillusioned with the Communist Party, particularly its approach to managing elite sports while describing it as unprofessional and overly obsessed with winning.
Beijing's mishandling of the initial coronavirus outbreak and its efforts to curb dissent in Hong Kong reinforced their resentment toward one-party rule in China, the couple was quoted as saying by The Journal.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has dismissed the criticism, terming them as "preposterous".
The couple credited Guo Wengui -- the fugitive businessman now living in New York and who has captivated some politically-minded citizens -- for inspiring them to speak up.
According to the couple, they first reached out to Guo about two months ago. Guo last month asked them to become ambassadors for "Federal State of China" and they agreed, The Journal reported. Guo along with Steve Bannon, former adviser to President Trump, launched a campaign this month to create a "New Federal State of China."
Ye said that "there are many people who think the same way as we do but they don't dare to speak up inside the country--and they are becoming less and less willing to speak", according to The Journal.
According to Hao, his son, a professional soccer player, has been released by his team, Serbian club Radnicki Nis, since the couple's live-stream appearance. In a statement on Wednesday, Radnicki Nis denied receiving any pressure over the son.
The couple plans to continue speaking up against the Communist Party through Guo's media platforms and say whatever consequences that may come, they will bear them. (ANI)