Why China is downplaying apparent disappearance of tennis star suspected of sexual assault

The apparent disappearance of a Chinese Olympic tennis star who was allegedly sexually assaulted by a former senior politburo official appears to indicate that the Chinese government wants to push back any threats to his rule, observers said Thursday.

Peng Shuai, 35, former world No. 1 professional doubles tennis player, said via Chinese social media service Weibo on November 2 that former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli committed the assault, VOA reported. in Chinese.

Chinese authorities quickly deleted the message. This week, however, rights groups began asking where Peng could be found and the US-based Women’s Tennis Association demanded that his request “be dealt with properly, which means the allegations must be made. subject to a thorough, fair, transparent and uncensored investigation ”. also remove tournaments from China.

The Communist government rarely tolerates negative comments about officials. Other challengers, such as Hong Kong authors, dissidents and booksellers, have reportedly disappeared after offending the rulers. Some end up in the legal system.

“We can connect the dots and suspect Beijing is behind it all,” said Alexander Vuving, professor at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii. “They are in party custody.”

Chinese control over information is “built on the historical notion of the emperor’s role as a mediator between heaven and earth, and, therefore, as a quasi-divine figure,” said researcher Michael. McCarty of Baylor University in a study.

Zhang, 75, had a decorated career as a member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party and secretary of the Communist Party in the port city of Tianjin. He chaired government committees that oversaw the Three Gorges Dam megaproject and the Belt and Road Initiative for international infrastructure development.

“I think the idea behind this kind of problem is usually that the group is bigger than the individual and stability is above all else, so according to this thought, of course you can have ideas, but don’t affect not global stability, and this global stability of course includes control of the Communist Party, ”said Huang Kwei-bo, associate professor of diplomacy at Taipei National Chengchi University.

Peng’s claim involves Chinese power holders in the feminist #MeToo cause, said Lu Pin, founder of Feminist Voices, the country’s largest new media channel on women’s issues.

“Her experience has… made people think about the feminist movement, as the movement will inevitably touch and confront those in power,” Lu said. “I also see that people are afraid of Peng’s disappearance. I guess it’s hard to just say that his courage encouraged everyone. But in my opinion, Peng’s outspokenness is of great importance to the #MeToo movement in China.

China between two fires

China’s official world television network on Wednesday released an English-language email, allegedly written by Peng, saying that she never confirmed the association’s statement and was resting at home.

The International Olympic Committee said it was “encouraged by the assurances that she is safe”. Peng had competed in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics.

However, rights groups and tennis watchers suspect a cover-up. Media Tennis.comThe Twitter feed displays with the line, “I can’t believe Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received.”

The hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai “has a global trend” and tennis champions Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic have expressed concerns over the apparent disappearance, Human Rights Watch said.

“The Chinese government, the IOC’s partner in the Winter Olympics, frequently forcibly kills individuals whose views or behavior it considers problematic or embarrassing,” Human Rights Watch said. Beijing is expected to host the 2022 Winter Games.

“To use a tennis metaphor, the ball is now in China’s court,” said Daryl Adiar, associate professor of sports management at the Business School of University of Technology in Sydney.

“Peng Shuai seems likely to seek a court hearing, which plaintiffs around the world should be entitled to. “

Chinese officials have not commented on Peng Shuai’s status or the tennis association’s demands.

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