Tennis stars talk about China

Tennis stars are demanding answers about Peng Shuai, whose disappearance has again highlighted China’s brutal authoritarianism in the months leading up to the hosting of the Winter Olympics.

Posted on November 19, 2021, 4:01 pm ET ৷

Xinhua News Agency / Xinhua News Agency / Getty Images

Peng Shuai at the Australian Open in January 2020

The message was only online for a few minutes, but its shock waves were constant around the world.

“I was terrified that afternoon,” tennis player Peng Shuai wrote in his November 2 message on the Chinese version of Twitter, Weibo. “I never agreed, I cried all the time.”

Peng, a former World No. 1-ranked doubles player who has won Wimbledon and the French Open, says he has been sexually harassed by one of the leading figures in the Chinese Communist Party: Zhang Gaoli, a former Chinese vice premier and former member of the party’s Politburo standing committee.

The 35-year-old tennis star said Zhang, 65, raped her a few years ago. They later had a reunion relationship, he said.

“I feel like a walking corpse,” Peng wrote.

His allegations of sexual harassment – which Peng acknowledged in his post, were not independently supported by others – were first made public against a man so senior in the Chinese government.

The post was quickly removed by Chinese censors, and even searches for his name in China were blocked.

He has not been seen in public since.

The disappearance of one of China’s top athletes just months before the country hosted the Winter Olympics has rekindled the country’s record of brutal authoritarianism and repressive human rights.

Read more: Olympic officials dismiss Beijing Games human rights concerns in a video call, documents show

On Friday, the UN human rights office told reporters it wanted proof of its “position and well-being.”

Top tennis stars have since rallied for Peng, flooding social media with the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.

“I am shocked and shocked to hear the news from my colleague Peng Shuai,” said Serena Williams. Wrote Thursday. “I hope he is safe and will be found as soon as possible. It must be investigated and we must not remain silent. “

“Censorship is not right at any cost,” Naomi Osaka wrote on Tuesday.

It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. This speech is a reminder to us and gives us some hope that things may change in the future. #WhereIsPengShuai

Twitter: @andy_murray

Amid growing international attention to his plight, China’s state media suddenly slammed him on Thursday Published an email It said Peng wrote a letter to Steve Simon, chairman of the Women’s Tennis Association.

The letter, whose authenticity could not be verified, claimed that Peng was resting at home and had never approved the original “not true” statement to be posted on Weibo.

But in a statement on Thursday, Simon said the alleged Peng letter only made him more afraid for his safety.

“I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email believing the email we received or what he is being blamed for,” he said.

He called for “independent and verifiable evidence” of his safety and a full investigation into his claims.

“Peng Shuai must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source,” Simon said. “Her allegations of sexual harassment must be investigated with full transparency and without censorship.”

Simon told CNN that the WTA was ready to stop doing business with China, and that it would lose hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue if Peng was not accounted for.

“It’s bigger than business,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Women’s Sports Foundation, a U.S. nonprofit founded by tennis legend Billy Jean King in 1974, told BuzzFeed News that they supported the WTA’s position.

“We are deeply concerned and concerned about the disappearance of Peng Shuai and his alleged sexual harassment,” the spokesman said. “We support the WTA’s claim that its security is verifiable and that its allegations should be investigated with respect and full transparency.”

But the letter was clearly enough for the International Olympic Committee, which was largely silent on the disappearance of the three-time Olympian.

“We have seen the latest report and are encouraged by the assurance that he is safe,” an IOC spokesman said on Thursday.

This subtle statement was criticized as foolish by the Western media and the widespread shaking of the private sector.

South China Morning Post / South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Zhang Gaoli, then Chinese Vice Premier, is giving a speech in Beijing in May 2017.

International advocacy group Human Rights Watch also embarrassed the IOC, saying it was “supporting” the Chinese government’s “line.”

“It’s amazing that the IOC will accept the government’s assurances, especially at the expense of serious allegations against a female Olympian,” said Minky Warden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch.

The group called on athletes, sports fans and sponsors of the Winter Games to talk about human rights in China.

“The Olympics should be a celebration of humanity, not an opportunity to abuse athletes and a sporting crime against humanity,” Warden said.

After a virtual meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday, President Joe Biden said this week that he was considering a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Games.

Amnesty International also said it was “deeply concerned” about Peng, given its track record of squashing dissent in China.

“Peng’s so-called recent statement that ‘everything is fine’ should not be taken lightly because China’s state media has a track record of forcing statements from individuals under pressure, otherwise they have been fabricated,” said Dorian, a Chinese researcher at Amnesty International. Says Dorian, a Chinese researcher at Amnesty International. Lau. “These concerns will not go away until Peng’s safety and location are confirmed.”

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