Tennis Stars Speak Out On China

Tennis Stars Speak Out On China

Tennis stars are demanding solutions about Peng Shuai, whose disappearance has once more underscored China’s brutal authoritarianism simply months earlier than it hosts the Winter Olympics.

Posted on November 19, 2021, at 4:01 p.m. ET

Xinhua News Agency / Xinhua News Agency / Getty Images

Peng Shuai on the Australian Open in January 2020

The message was solely on-line for a couple of minutes, however its shock waves have reverberated world wide.

“I was so scared that afternoon,” tennis participant Peng Shuai wrote in her Nov. 2 message on Weibo, China’s model of Twitter. “I never gave consent, crying the entire time.”

Peng, a former world No. 1–ranked doubles participant who has gained championships at Wimbledon and the French Open, mentioned she was sexually assaulted by one of many Chinese Communist Party’s most outstanding folks: Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier of China and former member of the occasion’s Politburo Standing Committee.

The 35-year-old tennis star mentioned Zhang, 75, had raped her a number of years in the past. They later had an on-again, off-again consensual relationship, she mentioned.

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

Her allegation of sexual assault — which, as Peng acknowledged in her put up, has not been independently corroborated by others — was the primary to be raised publicly in opposition to somebody who had been so senior in China’s authorities.

The put up was swiftly taken down by Chinese censors, with even searches for her identify blocked in China.

She has not been seen in public since.

The disappearance of certainly one of China’s prime athletes simply months earlier than the nation is because of host the Winter Olympics has once more shone a lightweight on the nation’s brutal authoritarianism and repressive human rights document.

Read extra: Olympic Officials Dismissed Beijing Games Human Rights Concerns In A Video Call, Documents Show

On Friday, the United Nations human rights workplace informed reporters it wished proof of her “whereabouts and wellbeing.”

Top tennis stars have since rallied to Peng’s trigger, flooding social media with the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.

“I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai,” Serena Williams wrote Thursday. “I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent.”

“Censorship is never OK at any cost,” Naomi Osaka wrote Tuesday.

Female tennis participant Peng Shuai whereabouts at present unknown after making Sexual abuse allegations in opposition to Chinese authorities official.
This speech provides us a reminder and a few hope that issues can change sooner or later 🙏

Twitter: @andy_murray

Amid rising worldwide consideration on her plight, Chinese state media on Thursday immediately released an email it mentioned Peng had written to Women’s Tennis Association Chair Steve Simon.

The letter, the authenticity of which couldn’t be verified, claimed Peng was resting at dwelling and had by no means approved for the unique “not true” assertion to be posted on Weibo.

But in a press release on Thursday, Simon mentioned the purported Peng letter solely made him extra fearful for her security.

“I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her,” he mentioned.

He known as for “independent and verifiable proof” of her security and a full investigation into her claims.

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

Simon informed CNN the WTA was ready to now not do enterprise with China, and thus lose out on a whole bunch of thousands and thousands of {dollars} in income, if Peng was not accounted for.

“This is bigger than the business,” he mentioned.

A spokesperson for the Women’s Sports Foundation, a US nonprofit based in 1974 by tennis legend Billie Jean King, informed BuzzFeed News they supported the WTA’s place.

“We are deeply concerned and troubled by the disappearance of Peng Shuai and her allegation of sexual assault,” the spokesperson mentioned. “We support the WTA’s demands for verifiable proof of her safety and that her allegations be respected and investigated with full transparency.”

But the letter was apparently sufficient for the International Olympic Committee, which has been principally quiet on the disappearance of a three-time Olympian.

“We have seen the latest reports and are encouraged by assurances that she is safe,” an IOC spokesperson mentioned Thursday.

That tepid assertion was criticized as feckless by broad swaths of the Western media and nongovernmental organizations.

South China Morning Post / South China Morning Post by way of Getty Images

Zhang Gaoli, then Chinese vice premier, making a speech in Beijing in May 2017.

The worldwide advocacy group Human Rights Watch additionally shamed the IOC for what it mentioned was an “endorsement” of the Chinese authorities’s “line.”

“It’s astonishing that the IOC would accept the government’s assurances, particularly at the expense of a female Olympian making grave allegations,” mentioned Minky Worden, Human Rights Watch’s director of worldwide initiatives.

The group urged athletes, sports activities followers, and sponsors of the Winter Games to talk out about human rights in China.

“The Olympics are supposed to be a celebration of humanity, not an opportunity to mistreat athletes and sportswash crimes against humanity,” Worden mentioned.

After a digital assembly on Monday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Joe Biden mentioned this week he was contemplating a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Games.

Amnesty International additionally mentioned it was deeply involved for Peng given China’s monitor document of squashing dissent.

“Peng’s recent so-called statement that ‘everything is fine’ should not be taken at face value as China’s state media has a track record of forcing statements out of individuals under duress, or else simply fabricating them,” mentioned Amnesty International China researcher Doriane Lau. “These concerns will not go away unless Peng’s safety and whereabouts are confirmed.”

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