Skip to main content

China remains silent on death of tennis star, despite global pressure

By November 18, 2021Sports games

An email allegedly from a professional Chinese tennis player that Chinese state media posted on Twitter has heightened concerns about her safety as the sports’ biggest stars and others abroad call for get information about his well-being and where he is.

So far, these appeals have been met with silence.

Chinese authorities have not said anything publicly since the accusation, about two weeks ago, of the double Grand Slam champion, Peng Shuai, that she was sexually assaulted by a former senior government official.

The first #MeToo case to reach the political realm in China was not reported by national media and the online discussion about it was heavily censored.

Steve Simon, president and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association, questioned the authenticity of the email to her, in which Peng says she is safe and the assault allegation is fake. It was released on Thursday by CGTN, the international arm of China’s public broadcaster CCTV.

“I find it hard to believe that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is attributed to him,” Simon wrote.

The statement, he added, “only raises my concerns about his safety and whereabouts.” Simon has called for a full investigation and the WTA has said it is ready to pull tournaments out of the country if it does not get a proper response. Top players including Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic have spoken, and the hashtag WhereisPengShuai is all the rage online.

China has largely cracked down on a #MeToo movement that flourished briefly in 2018 and is moving forward with the Beijing Winter Olympics in February despite calls to boycott activists and some foreign politicians of China’s record. in human rights.

When asked several times about the case, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian again said on Thursday that he was unaware.

Peng, 35, is a former No. 1 player in the women’s doubles who won titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and Roland Garros in 2014.

She wrote in a lengthy social media post on November 2 that Zhang Gaoli, a former deputy prime minister who was a member of the ruling Communist Party’s top leadership committee, had forced her to have sex despite repeated refusals three years ago.

The post was quickly deleted from his verified account on Weibo, one of China’s major social media platforms, but screenshots of the explosive charge quickly spread across the internet in China. She has not appeared in public since then, raising questions about her fate and whether she is being held.

Zhang, who is 75, disappeared from public view after retiring in 2018, as usual for former senior officials. He is not known to have close ties to the current rulers.

Peng’s charge is the first high-profile sexual assault charge against a powerful politician in China. Past accusations have involved prominent figures in the nonprofit world, academia and the media, but never reached senior Communist Party officials or state-owned companies.

CGTN released the statement on Twitter, which is blocked in China along with many other foreign platforms such as Google and Facebook. He did not post it on Chinese social media, and there was no mention of the alleged email behind the Great Firewall, which separates the Chinese internet from the rest of the world.

Some netizens bypassed controls and posted the news on private social media groups., which records Weibo’s censored messages, said searches for “Peng Shuai” and “Zhang Gaoli” were both in the top 10 most searched topics on Thursday.

Searches for Peng Shuai’s name on the Chinese search engine Sogou only brought up articles about his tennis career. His Weibo account no longer allows comments and no results appear if people search for his Weibo account.

Peng wrote that Zhang’s wife was guarding the door during the alleged assault, which followed a game of tennis. Her post also said that they had had sex seven years ago and that she had feelings for him afterwards. She also said she knew speaking would be difficult.

“Yes, other than me, I have kept no evidence, no recording, no video, only the actual experience of my twisted self. Even if I destroy myself, like throwing an egg against a rock, or a butterfly flying in a flame, I will always speak the truth about us, ”the now deleted post said.

His allegation came just three months before Beijing hosted the Winter Olympics, which were the target of a campaign to boycott several human rights organizations in large part because of the crackdown by China of Uyghur Muslims. The games face a possible diplomatic boycott from the United States and other countries. Rights groups compared the 2022 Beijing Olympics to Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Olympics. China has always denied any human rights abuses and claims its actions are part of anti-terrorism programs.

Peng has participated in three Olympics. The International Olympic Committee said in a statement Thursday that “We have seen the latest reports and are encouraged by the assurances that she is safe.” The Switzerland-based IOC, which derives 73% of its income from the sale of broadcast rights and 18% from sponsors, has not criticized China and often repeats that it is only a sports company and that its mission is not to act on the policies of a sovereign state.

Xu Guoqi, historian at the University of Hong Kong, explained the difference between the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2022 Games.

“The big difference between the two Beijing Games is that in 2008, Beijing tried to please the world,” Xu recently told The Associated Press in an email. “In 2022, he doesn’t really care what the rest of the world thinks about it.” The WTA can better afford to exert pressure since it is less dependent on China’s revenue than the IOC or the NBA. The basketball league lost around $ 400 million in broadcast rights when China canceled games in the 2019-20 season after then-Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted to support protesters in Hong Kong.

(This story was not edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)