Where is Peng Shuai? A #MeToo case pits women's tennis against Chinese censorship
Women's tennis takes a stand for Peng Shuai, a Chinese player who accused a Communist Party leader of sexual abuse and has vanished from public view.It is a case that touches on the most sensitive topic in China: abuse of power by Communist Party leaders. It also comes as Beijing prepares to host the Winter Olympics in February amid international calls for a boycott over China’s human rights violations.
The apparent disappearance of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has attracted the attention of the United Nations, Serena Williams, members of the U.S. Congress, and other international, high-profile individuals.
Peng, 35, seemingly had her social media censored by the Chinese government and had not been seen for weeks since she accused a former vice-premier of China of sexual assault. Celebrities and organizations that have typically been reluctant to speak out against human rights concerns in China have publicly expressed their concerns over the case.
"What we would say is that it would be important to have proof of her whereabouts and well-being, and we would urge that there be an investigation with full transparency into her allegations of sexual assault," a spokesperson for the U.N. Human Rights Office told reporters Friday, according to CNN.
China risks provoking calls for Olympics boycott by silencing Peng Shuai
PENG SHUAI: WHO IS THE CHINESE TENNIS PLAYER AND HAS SHE GONE MISSING?
Peng accused Zhang Gaoli, a former vice-premier of China, of forcing her to have sex with him. She made the accusation in a Nov. 2 post on Chinese social media platform Weibo. The post was deleted within 30 minutes along with other content on her page, CNN reported. Chinese censors even briefly scrubbed the Chinese word for tennis, "wangqiu," according to the Daily Mail.
Zhang served as the vice-premier of China from 2013 to 2018.
Chinese officials have attempted to assuage concerns about Peng's disappearance. On Friday, Chinese state media reporter Shen Shiwei posted photos that he said came from Peng's WeChat showing her playing with her cat.
State media reporter claims Peng Shuai has posted happy photos on WeChat, looking totally relaxed while the tennis world is struggling to reach her and fearing for her safety. https://t.co/ZYudcQnNRp
The suspicious disappearance of tennis star Peng Shuai is straight out of China's playbook for forcing rogue celebrities into submission
On Nov. 2, Peng accused a former Chinese official of sexual assault. She's not been heard from since — like many celebrities who fall foul of Beijing.What the trio also have in common is that they vanished without notice after defying Beijing or embarrassing the nation.
— Viola Zhou (@violazhouyi) November 19, 2021
On Wednesday, CGTN (a Chinese state-run television network) published an email that Peng sent to Steve Simon, the chairman and CEO of the Women's Tennis Association. In the email, she allegedly said that she was "fine," that she was "not missing," and that the allegation of sexual assault was not true.
Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has sent an email to Steve Simon, the WTA Chairman & CEO, CGTN has learned. The email reads: pic.twitter.com/uLi6Zd2jDI
— CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) November 17, 2021
And on Saturday, Editor-in-Chief Hu Xijin of the Global Times (a Chinese state-run newspaper) posted videos allegedly showing Peng, her friends, and her coach dining at a restaurant.
I acquired two video clips, which show Peng Shuai was having dinner with her coach and friends in a restaurant. The video content clearly shows they are shot on Saturday Beijing time. pic.twitter.com/HxuwB5TfBk
Peng Shuai Purportedly in Video, Photos Released by State-Affiliated Chinese Media
This is the second clip. pic.twitter.com/BWzdBkIJ94
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) November 20, 2021
The first video reportedly shows Peng, who did not speak, sitting with a man and two women. According to Sky News, the man asks whether "tomorrow is the 20th of November," and one of the women repeatedly replies that the date would be "Nov. 21." The second video shows a woman with a face mask entering the restaurant, with Fox News reporting that the date on the door was smudged out.
In response, Simon said Saturday, "While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference. This video alone is insufficient."
"As I have stated from the beginning, I remain concerned about Peng Shuai’s health and safety and that the allegation of sexual assault is being censored and swept under the rug," he said.
Simon also said Wednesday that "I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her. The WTA and the rest of the world need independent and verifiable proof that she is safe. I have repeatedly tried to reach her via numerous forms of communication, to no avail."
The IOC says Peng Shuai is safe. Experts say the IOC has become a vehicle for Chinese propaganda
The International Olympic Committee’s attempt to assure the world that Peng Shuai is safe was not only insufficient evidence of her well-being, it was, according to experts and activists, a “harmful,” “disturbing” and “active” amplification of Chinese propaganda, one that made the IOC “complicit” in China’s silencing of Peng’s sexual assault allegations. The IOC, in a Sunday statement, described a video call between Peng and IOC president Thomas Bach. It represented Peng’s first verified communication with the Western world since she accused Zhang Gaoli, a former Chinese Communist Party vice premier, of coercing her into sex. And it proved that Peng is alive.
He also threatened to cut business from China on Thursday if the country did not provide proof Peng's safety, saying that this issue was "bigger than the business."
Tennis star Serena Williams weighed into the controversy too, saying, "This must be investigated and we must not stay silent."
I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai. I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent. Sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time. #whereispengshuaipic.twitter.com/GZG3zLTSC6
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) November 18, 2021
This is an escalation from previous responses of celebrities and businesses to human rights concerns in China. For example, NBA star LeBron James responded to Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey's controversial tweet in support of the 2019 Hong Kong protests by saying that he was "not educated."
The NBA also initially blocked fans from creating custom T-shirts that said "FreeHongKong" and then caved to public backlash.
In March, actor John Cena apologized to China in Mandarin for referring to Taiwan as an independent nation.
Peng's apparent disappearance has even attracted attention from some members of Congress. Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio released a statement criticizing China for the lack of transparency in the star's well-being.
It's not just Peng. China is cracking down on MeToo movement
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Huang Xueqin, who publicly supported a woman when she accused a professor of sexual assault, was arrested in September. Wang Jianbing, who helped women report sexual harassment, was detained along with her. Neither has been heard from since. Meanwhile, several other women's rights activists have faced smear campaigns on social media and some have seen their accounts shuttered. When tennis star Peng Shuai disappeared from public view this month after accusing a senior Chinese politician of sexual assault, it caused an international uproar.
He also called for the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Winter Olympics out of Beijing.
“Peng Shuai’s disappearance is just the latest in a long list of immoral and inhumane actions committed by the Chinese Communist Party,” Rubio said. “It is time for the IOC to relocate the Games, even if that means postponing them, and treat the Chinese Communist Party like the evil, abusive regime that it is.”
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This is not the first time a high-profile figure in China has gone missing after criticizing a leader in the Chinese Communist Party.
Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, who founded e-commerce giant Alibaba, disappeared for nearly three months after he publicly criticized Chinese regulators.
It is unclear if the Chinese government plans to investigate the claims or take action against Zhang.
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Tags:News, China, Sexual Assault, Tennis, Sports, Social Media, Foreign Policy, Marco Rubio, Senate
Original Author:Ryan King
Original Location:Concern grows for tennis player who accused Chinese official of sexual assault
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