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A Chinese language Tennis Star Accused A High Official Of Sexual Assault. Then She Disappeared.

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Tennis stars are demanding solutions about Peng Shuai, whose disappearance has once more underscored China’s brutal authoritarianism simply months earlier than it hosts the Winter Olympics.

Posted on November 19, 2021, at 4:01 p.m. ET



Xinhua Information Company / Xinhua Information Company / Getty Photographs

Peng Shuai on the Australian Open in January 2020

The message was solely on-line for a couple of minutes, however its shock waves have reverberated all over the world.

“I used to be so scared that afternoon,” tennis participant Peng Shuai wrote in her Nov. 2 message on Weibo, China’s model of Twitter. “I by no means gave consent, crying your complete time.”

Peng, a former world No. 1–ranked doubles participant who has received championships at Wimbledon and the French Open, stated she was sexually assaulted by one of many Chinese language Communist Social gathering’s most outstanding folks: Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier of China and former member of the occasion’s Politburo Standing Committee.

The 35-year-old tennis star stated Zhang, 75, had raped her a number of years in the past. They later had an on-again, off-again consensual relationship, she stated.

“I really feel like a strolling corpse,” Peng wrote.

Her allegation of sexual assault — which, as Peng acknowledged in her submit, has not been independently corroborated by others — was the primary to be raised publicly in opposition to somebody who had been so senior in China’s authorities.

The submit was swiftly taken down by Chinese language censors, with even searches for her title blocked in China.

She has not been seen in public since.

The disappearance of certainly one of China’s high athletes simply months earlier than the nation is because of host the Winter Olympics has once more shone a lightweight on the nation’s brutal authoritarianism and repressive human rights record.



On Friday, the United Nations human rights workplace told reporters it wished proof of her “whereabouts and wellbeing.”

High tennis stars have since rallied to Peng’s trigger, flooding social media with the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.

“I’m devastated and shocked to listen to concerning the information of my peer, Peng Shuai,” Serena Williams wrote Thursday. “I hope she is protected and located as quickly as doable. This should be investigated and we should not keep silent.”

“Censorship isn’t OK at any value,” Naomi Osaka wrote Tuesday.

Feminine tennis participant Peng Shuai whereabouts at present unknown after making Sexual abuse allegations in opposition to Chinese language authorities official.
This speech provides us a reminder and a few hope that issues can change sooner or later 🙏
#WhereIsPengShuai https://t.co/eKnLCHcPLj


Twitter: @andy_murray

Amid rising worldwide consideration on her plight, Chinese language state media on Thursday all of the sudden released an email it stated Peng had written to Girls’s Tennis Affiliation Chair Steve Simon.

The letter, the authenticity of which couldn’t be verified, claimed Peng was resting at dwelling and had by no means licensed for the unique “not true” assertion to be posted on Weibo.

However in a statement on Thursday, Simon stated the purported Peng letter solely made him extra fearful for her security.

“I’ve a tough time believing that Peng Shuai truly wrote the e-mail we acquired or believes what’s being attributed to her,” he stated.

He known as for “impartial and verifiable proof” of her security and a full investigation into her claims.

“Peng Shuai should be allowed to talk freely, with out coercion or intimidation from any supply,” Simon stated. “Her allegation of sexual assault should be revered, investigated with full transparency and with out censorship.”

Simon told CNN the WTA was ready to now not do enterprise with China, and thus lose out on a whole lot of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in income, if Peng was not accounted for.

“That is greater than the enterprise,” he stated.

A spokesperson for the Girls’s Sports activities Basis, a US nonprofit based in 1974 by tennis legend Billie Jean King, advised BuzzFeed Information they supported the WTA’s place.

“We’re deeply involved and troubled by the disappearance of Peng Shuai and her allegation of sexual assault,” the spokesperson stated. “We assist the WTA’s calls for for verifiable proof of her security and that her allegations be revered and investigated with full transparency.”

However the letter was apparently sufficient for the Worldwide Olympic Committee, which has been principally quiet on the disappearance of a three-time Olympian.

“Now we have seen the most recent stories and are inspired by assurances that she is protected,” an IOC spokesperson stated Thursday.

That tepid assertion was criticized as feckless by broad swaths of the Western media and nongovernmental organizations.


South China Morning Put up / South China Morning Put up by way of Getty Photographs

Zhang Gaoli, then Chinese language vice premier, making a speech in Beijing in Could 2017.

The worldwide advocacy group Human Rights Watch additionally shamed the IOC for what it stated was an “endorsement” of the Chinese language authorities’s “line.”

“It is astonishing that the IOC would settle for the federal government’s assurances, notably on the expense of a feminine Olympian making grave allegations,” stated Minky Worden, Human Rights Watch’s director of worldwide initiatives.

The group urged athletes, sports activities followers, and sponsors of the Winter Video games to talk out about human rights in China.

“The Olympics are presupposed to be a celebration of humanity, not a possibility to mistreat athletes and sportswash crimes in opposition to humanity,” Worden stated.

After a digital assembly on Monday with Chinese language President Xi Jinping, President Joe Biden stated this week he was contemplating a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Video games.

Amnesty Worldwide additionally said it was deeply involved for Peng given China’s observe report of squashing dissent.

“Peng’s current so-called assertion that ‘every little thing is okay’ shouldn’t be taken at face worth as China’s state media has a observe report of forcing statements out of people below duress, or else merely fabricating them,” stated Amnesty Worldwide China researcher Doriane Lau. “These considerations is not going to go away except Peng’s security and whereabouts are confirmed.”