Chinese tennis star accuses a former top government leader of sexual assault

Peng Shuai, 35, a former Wimbledon and French Open doubles champion, on Tuesday accused retired Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of pressuring her into having intercourse, in response to screenshots of a since-deleted submit from Peng’s verified account on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform.

CNN couldn’t independently confirm the authenticity of the greater than 1,600-word submit, and has reached out to Peng for remark, in addition to China’s State Council Data Workplace, which handles press inquires for the central authorities.

Within the submit, which reads as an open letter to Zhang, she alleges an relationship over an intermittent interval that spanned no less than 10 years. Peng says she opened her coronary heart to him.

“Why did it’s important to come again to me, took me to your own home to drive me to have intercourse with you? Sure, I didn’t have any proof, and it was merely unattainable to have proof,” she wrote.

“I could not describe how disgusted I used to be, and what number of instances I requested myself am I nonetheless a human? I really feel like a strolling corpse. Day by day I used to be appearing, which individual is the true me?”

China's former Vice Primier Zhang Gaoli speaks during the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation on May 14, 2017 in Beijing, China.

CNN couldn’t attain Zhang, 75, who served on the ruling Communist Occasion’s seven individual Politburo Standing Committee, the nation’s supreme management physique, from 2012 to 2017 throughout Chinese language chief Xi Jinping’s first time period in energy. He retired as vice premier in 2018.

In China, prime leaders of Zhang’s standing stay unapproachable and personal even after retirement, which makes reaching him to remark for this story nearly unattainable.

China’s fledgling #MeToo movement has focused academics, NGO workers and celebrities previously — with various outcomes. However that is the primary time it has reached the very higher echelons of the Communist Occasion.

“We should understand how exceptional it’s for Peng Shuai to decide on to talk out. Few individuals would have the braveness to do this, as a result of it might come on the expense of the security of your self and your loved ones,” stated Lv Pin, a outstanding Chinese language feminist now primarily based in New York.

Including to the political sensitivity, the scandal additionally got here simply days earlier than an important assembly of social gathering elites in Beijing, which is predicted to pave the way in which for Xi Jinping to cement a third term in office.

Blanket censorship

As Peng’s allegations made waves on-line, censorship kicked in with a pace and ferocity unseen in any of the nation’s earlier #MeToo instances.

Her prolonged submit, printed shortly after 10 p.m. on Tuesday, was deleted in below half-hour. Screenshots of it had initially circulated broadly throughout social media and in non-public discussion groups, however quickly they had been censored too, together with different posts discussing the case.

Peng’s verified account, which has greater than half 1,000,000 followers, stays on Weibo as of Wednesday night. However it has been blocked from searches. All remark sections below her earlier posts have been shut down too.

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In an indication of the unprecedented stage of censorship, even a Weibo dialogue web page about tennis was closed for feedback. And obscure references to the scandal had been eliminated, too.

On Douban, China’s IMDB-like film overview web site, the web page of Korean romance TV present “Prime Minister and I” was censored, after customers mentioned Peng’s case in its overview part.

The swift and thorough censorship stands in stark distinction to the response to different current high-profile #MeToo instances, such because the rape allegations towards Canadian-Chinese pop star Kris Wu.

That scandal was allowed to realize enormous traction on social media, dominating prime trending matters on Weibo for days, whereas state media amplified the accusation, censuring Wu for his ethical decadence.

Wu was subsequently arrested on suspicion of rape. Earlier than he was detained, Wu had denied the allegations on his private Weibo account. His firm stated it was pursuing authorized motion towards his accuser, calling the accusations “malicious rumors.”
Quickly afterward, the federal government unleashed a sweeping crackdown on the leisure business, canceling a bunch of “misbehaving celebrities.”

The allegations

Peng claimed in her submit that she first had intercourse with Zhang greater than 10 years in the past, when Zhang served because the Communist Occasion boss of Tianjin, a coastal metropolis to the southeast of Beijing. However Zhang broke off contact after he was promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee in Beijing, in response to the submit.

It didn’t clarify the circumstances of their first sexual engagement.

Then, one morning about three years in the past after Zhang had retired, the submit alleges Peng was abruptly invited by him to play tennis in Beijing. Afterward, she writes, Zhang and his spouse introduced Peng again to their house, the place Peng claimed she was pressured into having intercourse with Zhang.

“That afternoon I didn’t agree at first and was crying on a regular basis,” Peng wrote. After dinner with Zhang and his spouse, and following a lot persuading from Zhang, she relented, in response to the submit.

Like Zhang, his spouse Kang Jie stays carefully shielded by the federal government and couldn’t be reached for remark.

“I used to be panicking and I used to be scared, and I agreed to it with my emotions for you from seven years in the past,” the submit stated.

Peng Shuai plays in the 2012 Wimbledon Championships.

Peng stated she then entered an extramarital relationship with Zhang, however she suffered “an excessive amount of injustice and insults.” She claimed they bought right into a quarrel final week, and Zhang refused to satisfy her and disappeared.

Peng stated she didn’t have proof to show her allegations, and claimed Zhang was at all times frightened that she would document issues.

“I do know that that for somebody of your eminence, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, you stated you weren’t afraid. However even when it is simply me, like an egg hitting the stone, a moth flying into flames, courting self-destruction, I’d inform the reality about us,” she wrote. CNN can’t independently confirm Peng’s claims.

Data surrounding the non-public lives of senior Chinese language officers is usually shrouded in secrecy, with even among the most elementary biographical info thought of taboo. Beneath Xi, nevertheless, the supposed extravagances and misdeeds of some disgraced officers caught up in his anti-corruption marketing campaign have been made broadly public, offering a uncommon window into their non-public lives.

‘She’s a really excellent lady’

Regardless of the censorship, many social media customers have voiced assist for Peng, typically in imprecise phrases.

“How determined and helpless she should have been,” posted a preferred tennis blogger with greater than 200,000 followers. “Hope you keep secure.”

“I do not know what else can I say other than praying she’ll be secure. We have accepted by default that this incident will disappear type the web — the submit will disappear, the account will disappear, justice will disappear; solely the ache that torments the sufferer won’t disappear, solely the worry of the subsequent sufferer won’t disappear,” stated one other remark.

Each posts had been later deleted.

An intern took on one of China's biggest TV stars in a landmark #MeToo case. She lost, but vowed to fight on

Sexual assault survivors have lengthy confronted sturdy stigma and resistance in China, on the official stage in addition to among the many public. However lately, a rising variety of girls have rallied round victims who spoke out, because the #MeToo motion gathered steam.

Lv, the feminist activist in New York, stated Peng sparked huge public sympathy partially as a result of how profitable she has been in her skilled profession.

In 2013, Peng received the doubles championship at Wimbledon along with her accomplice from Taiwan. In 2014, the duo received the French Open double titles. Peng was additionally a former US Open semi-finalist.

“She is a really excellent lady, the glory of China, a world well-known individual. Even girls like her can be trapped in a predicament like this,” Lv stated. “This reveals simply what number of hurdles Chinese language girls need to leap over on their pursuit for equality and independence.”

“Everyone is frightened about her. No one is aware of what would occur to her. I believe public consideration to the case is her greatest safety,” she added.

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