The disappearance of Peng Shuai

On November 2, Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai in a Weibo post alleged that former vice president Zhang Gaoli had sexually assaulted her when they were in a relationship.  Weibo is China's state-run social media platform.  Peng Shuai, 35, has won two Grand Slam women's doubles titles.  The first was at Wimbledon in 2013 and the second at the Roland Garros tournament in 2001.  Zhang, 75, served as China's vice president between 2013 and 2018 and is supposed to be a close ally of Chinese president Xi.

Peng Shuai claimed that the intermittent affair with Zhang continued for years, and on occasions, the sex was consensual.  She also acknowledged that she had no audio or video proof to back up her claims.

The post was removed twenty minutes later.  Shuai has not been seen in public since then.

On November 14, the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) chairman and CEO Steve Simon said in a statement that they were still unable to establish contact with Shuai despite multiple attempts.

Fellow tennis players such as Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams raised concerns.

On November 17, Chinese state-owned medium CGTN's Twitter account posted a screenshot of an email from Shuai to the WTA claiming she was well.  The gist of the email was that she is resting at home and that "everything is fine" and the allegations of sexual assault were false. 

On November 19, a reporter for Chinese state-run news media posted photos on Twitter that have Peng Shuai posing with stuffed animals.  In addition to the three photos, a WeChat screenshot has Shuai sending a "happy weekend" photo to her friends.  There is no way to establish the dates on which these photos were taken. 

To sum it up, it all appears very suspicious.

Following this incident, there has allegedly been a massive clampdown on the Sina Weibo microblog, China's equivalent of Twitter, to prevent people from discussing any matters related to Peng Shuai.

A search of her name and the word "tennis" now yields posts only from verified state-run media accounts and not regular users.

Her Weibo account that has over half a million followers no longer appears in search results.

It is standard practice in communist China to restrict search results and impose censorship for topics including China's top leadership, China's Politburo, and any matter of controversy.

This has caused Chinese social media's users to invent creative euphemisms to express themselves.  Ironically, Twitter users in democratic countries have had similar experiences.

Peng Shuai's accusations are the most recent in a series of high-profile #MeToo cases in China.  Back in 2018, TV host Zhou Xiaoxuan, made claims against prominent TV personality Zhu Jun in an online essay that resulted in several victims relating their own experiences of sexual harassment.  Mr. Zhu refuted the allegations.  Ms. Zhou filed a lawsuit against Zhu, but the case was dismissed.

The White House has reacted with a claim that Biden wants "verifiable" proof from China of Peng Shuai's safety.

The disappearance of the very popular Peng Shuai is devoid of any complexity.  She is the victim, who deserves justice and not persecution.

The #MeToo movement with its goal to protect women from sexual violence and to punish predators is an issue that can unite every nation on moral grounds.

By punishing the victim, the Chinese are clearly siding with the predator.

This is an issue that can arouse deep empathy and easily galvanize global support.  It could prompt massive demonstrations of support within China, which the CCP may find difficult to suppress.

The resolution to this issue is simple.  It requires no physical access to China's interior or any other complex time-consuming operations.  Either Peng Shuai makes a live appearance before the global press and eventually receives justice, or there is a serious problem.

In fact, pressure could be mounted to allow Peng Shuai to travel beyond China, and she could probably be offered protection and asylum in the U.S.

There is no moral justification to keep her confined or restrained.  This is a golden opportunity for the world to unite and embark on a mission to challenge China.

Will Biden and Harris be as vocal about Peng Shuai as they were about the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse?  Will they relentlessly confront China on the matter until it is resolved?  Will they build a global coalition that will punish China economically until the matter is resolved?

They do claim to be from the party that believes and stands by victims of sexual violence.

Image: Naparazzi.

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