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USS Montgomery, USNS Cesar Chavez enter South China Sea to support drill ship
May 8, 2020
View attachment 12740
The Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Montgomery conducts routine operations near Panamanian flagged drillship, West Capella. Montgomery is on a rotational deployment to USINDOPACOM, conducting operations, exercises and port visits throughout the region and working hull-to-hull with allied and partner navies to provide maritime security and stability, key pillars of a free and open Indo-Pacific. Photo courtesy USINDOPACOM

May 8 (UPI) -- The USS Montgomery and the USNS Cesar Chavez sailed into the South China Sea this week in support of the West Capella drill ship, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command announced Friday.

Earlier this week the Air Force and Marines conducted training exercises near China amid increased tensions in the region, which is the site of competing maritime claims.

Thursday's transit, officials said, was a reaction to Chinese harassment of the drill ship in waters the Chinese government has claimed but which the United States considers international waters.

Last week the Chinese military expelled the guided-missile destroyer USS Barry from the Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea, saying the United States was intruding into Chinese waters without permission.

The West Capella is owned by Patronas, a Malaysian oil and gas company and is registered in Panama.

Adm. John Aquilino, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said U.S. forces would stand with regional friends and partners to resist coercion and oppose unlawful claims to international waters and resources.

"We are committed to a rules-based order in the South China Sea and we will continue to champion freedom of the seas and the rule of law," said Adm. John Aquilino, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. "The Chinese Communist Party must end its pattern of bullying Southeast Asians out of offshore oil, gas, and fisheries. Millions of people in the region depend on those resources for their livelihood."

Both ships were already underway in the region, with Montgomery on a rotational deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations and Cesar Chavez delivering supplies, fuel, cargo and equipment to warfighters throughout the region.


Sep 2, 2019
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Soccer superstar stuns China with call for ouster of Communist Party
Gerry Shih, The Washington Post
Published 7:35 am EDT, Friday, June 5, 2020
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.

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 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, 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, who is believed to live in Spain after retiring as China's greatest striker, has been known for sharply criticizing the 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 litany 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 the new China.