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Where is Peng Shuai? The disappearance of the tennis player who accused a former Chinese vice premier of rape

 Where is Peng Shuai?  The disappearance of the tennis player who accused a former Chinese vice premier of rape

The censorship pattern is always always the same. A girl reports on Weibo, Chinese Twitter, a rape, assault or sexual harassment by a famous man. Be it a singer, a presenter or a politician. The message begins to be shared by thousands of users, outraged by what happened. But before the scandal causes more noise, the vituperation system does its job and erases any trace in networks related to the message of the complainant woman.

For the Chinese media there is no news. Not a slight mention. The reader has to go to the notes of foreign correspondents to find out that one of China’s best female tennis players has said that a former vice premier forced her to have sex at his home three years ago.

Peng shuai (35 years old) dropped the bomb on Weibo on November 2. His message was barely 35 minutes online before it was deleted. It was not directed against just any politician. The defendant was Zhang Gaoli (75 years old), who retired as deputy prime minister in 2018. He was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the ruling Communist Party, the supreme leadership body, made up of only the seven most important people in China.

It is not the first complaint of its kind within the silenced movement MeToo. But until now it had never splashed on someone who was part of the political elite of the second world power. Neither the complainant was until now a high-level athlete who has won doubles at Wimbledon and Roland Garros, and was the first Chinese tennis player to reach number one in that category.

The complaint removed

In the deleted post, Peng said she had “intermittent consensual sex” with Zhang, who is married with children. But the tennis player denounced that, on one of these occasions, she was forced. “That afternoon I was very scared. I did not expect it to be like that. I did not agree to have sex with you and I kept crying that afternoon. Why did you have to come back with me, take me home to force me to have sex with you? I feel like a walking corpse “he wrote on Weibo.

Searches related to the topic in browsers were blocked. Peng’s Weibo profile, where he had half a million followers, was deleted. Days later it was activated again, but without any mention of Zhang. The censorship reached the point that when writing the word “tennis” in the social network, only a blank space appeared.

Since Peng dropped the accusations against the former Chinese politician, no one has heard from her again, which has sparked rumors in the foreign press about her possible disappearance. Although, normally, when a similar scandal breaks out in China, the protagonist usually remains silent for a time, away from the spotlight and keeping a low profile for fear that the authorities will accuse her of “causing problems”, the common charge against the critics that the regime often uses to lock them up.

The one who did come out last Sunday in defense of Peng was the president and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), Steve Simon, calling for the former doubles player to be “heard, not censored.” In a statement, Simon said Peng’s allegations were of “deep concern” and insisted that the complaint should be investigated “fully, fairly, transparently and without censorship.”

On Monday, it was the Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic, No. 1 of the ATP, the governing body of men’s tennis, who described as “shocking” that the Chinese player has not been seen since he published the complaint against the former vice premier. “Honestly, it’s shocking that she’s missing. She’s someone I’ve seen on tour in the past years quite a few times,” Djokovic said.

On Tuesday, the Japanese champion Naomi osaka, expressed on Twitter his concern about the whereabouts of his Chinese colleague. “I was recently informed of a tennis partner who disappeared shortly after revealing that she had been sexually abused. I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and well. I am in shock at the current situation and am sending her love and enlightenment. his way, “wrote Osaka.

Gerard Piqué, involved in tennis through the company Kosmos, organizer of the Davis Cup, was the last to show his concern for the Chinese tennis player on Thursday. “#WhereIsPengShuai”, wrote the central Barcelona with a photo of the Chinese tennis player.

A suspicious email

At dawn, Beijing time, the Chinese state network CGTN published on its website a strange email allegedly written by Peng in which she denied the accusation of sexual assault that she herself had released on Weibo against the former deputy prime minister. “I am not lost or insecure. I have just been resting at home and everything is fine. If the WTA publishes any more news about me, please check it out with me and post it with my consent.”, You could read in an email that many have doubted that it is the work of the tennis player herself. Even on Twitter some users have pointed out that the writing cursor seems to be visible in the screenshot of the email posted by CGTN.

The email was also received by the WTA. “I find it hard to believe that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email. I have repeatedly tried to communicate with her through numerous forms of communication, without success. Peng Shuai must be able to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source, “said Steve Simon.

Amnesty International (AI) has called on the Chinese authorities to prove the “safety” and “whereabouts” of Peng Shuai. AI China researcher Doriane Lau has noted that the Chinese government “has systematically silenced the movement MeToo in the country. “” Peng’s alleged statement recently that ‘everything is fine’ should not be accepted as authentic, as Chinese state media has a history of extracting statements from people under duress, or simply making them up. ” Lau continued, insisting that “these concerns will not fade unless Peng’s safety and whereabouts are confirmed.”

‘MeToo’ forbidden

In the Asian country, activism against sexual harassment or rape has been constantly censored. The authorities closed accounts of feminist activists on social networks four years ago and banned search phrases related to the MeToo, which began to see the light in 2017, after a university student in Beijing publicly accused her professor of sexual harassment. Another case, that of a woman who presented herself with the alias Liu Li, filed a complaint in the city of Chengdu for harassment of her boss, won the lawsuit and, although there was no conviction, she did get her stalker to issue a public apology. which was the first victory for the movement.

Last September, Zhou Xiaoxuan, a 28-year-old girl, went to the Haidian People’s Court, a neighborhood north of Beijing, to hear the verdict of her complaint against Zhu Jun, a former host of the state channel CCTV, who, according to the complainant, had tried to kiss and grope her during a television internship in 2014. The court found that Zhou did not have sufficient evidence. Zhu television is one of the most recognized faces in the country. He is known in every household especially because, for 21 years, he has been the host of the most famous annual gala, the Chinese New Year.

“I did everything I could. I am exhausted from the ordeal of the last three years. I knew this would be the last hearing, but I never imagined it would end like this,” Zhou blurted out after the trial. Later, he published a letter on Weibo, where he assured that he would appeal the court decision because the court had rejected the statement of a witness and various evidence presented. His ad on the Chinese social network was short-lived online, like that of tennis player Peng Shuai.

Reference from elmundo