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China’s Peng Shuai Faces An Uncertain Future Unless He Reverses The Accusations


China’s Peng Shuai Faces An Uncertain Future Unless He Reverses The Accusations.

It has been exactly three weeks since Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai made explosive rape allegations against a former high-ranking government official, but China’s ongoing information blackout means that concerned observers have been denied answers on whether she or the accused former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli will receive a fair hearing.

While not addressing the issue with its own citizens, Beijing appears to be creating an acceptable external narrative, which it hopes Peng will continue to save his career and legacy.

Peng, a former stunt world number one, was not seen or heard for more than two weeks after accusing Zhang of sexual assault in a post on Chinese social media service Weibo. The post was deleted half an hour later before his account was deleted and all related search results were censored.

She has made a public appearance since current and former tennis professionals, led by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), expressed concerns about her well-being and the lack of transparency around the Chinese government’s handling of her most important allegations. from the country. Case #MeToo to date.

But Peng’s appearance in a photoshoot at a youth tennis event did little to alleviate concerns about her physical and psychological safety – concerns that appear to be shared by her Chinese fans, who find her related comments removed and her accounts temporarily banned. for violating unspecified rules.

On Twitter, journalists working for Chinese state media also brought up supposedly recent photos and videos of Peng, but none made it to Weibo or other Chinese online services, where the subject remains silent.

WTA President Steve Simon, who has expressed his willingness to eliminate business interests in China if Peng’s case is not satisfactorily resolved with a full investigation, said he was happy to see videos of Peng but suggested that he be allowed to speak for itself in order to allay fears of political coercion.

“While it is positive to see her, it is unclear whether she is free and capable of making decisions and acting on her own, without coercion or outside interference,” Simon wrote. “This video alone is insufficient. As I have said from the beginning, I remain concerned for Peng Shuai’s health and safety and that the sexual assault charge is being censored and hidden under the rug.”

“I have been clear about what must happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads,” he concluded.

Amid a chorus of calls, from the United Nations to the American and British governments, for substantive responses on the 35-year-old’s disappearance from public opinion, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its president, Thomas Bach, they managed to secure a 30-minute video call with Peng from Beijing on Sunday.

In a widely criticized IOC statement that did not mention support for Peng’s sexual assault allegations, the committee said the tennis player was “safe and sound” and wanted her privacy respected.

Peng’s revelations came at a very sensitive time for the ruling Communist Party of China, which hopes to successfully host a Winter Olympics in February and confirm Xi Jinping as leader for an unprecedented third term next fall.

Recent attempts to dictate the flow of relevant information and the broader narrative surrounding Peng’s disappearance appear to show that Beijing is shifting the focus of its politically sensitive allegations to his physical appearance.

This was made clear in China’s first attempt to sow a favorable narrative last week when a Twitter account run by Chinese state broadcaster CGTN posted a dubious letter in which Peng allegedly dismissed his Weibo accusations as “false.”

It was never independently verified whether the letter, also censored in China, was written or approved by Peng. But if that’s the official narrative Beijing wants, Peng will be clear about the line to follow to safeguard his sports legacy and perhaps his personal well-being and that of his family as well.

With only 73 days until the start of Beijing 2022, it seems unlikely that the Chinese government will allow Peng’s high-profile case to overshadow preparations for what will ultimately be a major soft power victory for the country.

At the same time, their fate has become a test for the world’s governments, their Olympic committees, and sport in general ahead of the Winter Games, which are being held despite continuing reports of human rights abuses against them. Uighurs and other ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang.


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