The other, more alarming, Peng Shuai-like disappearance story

Much media coverage has been devoted to Peng Shuai, a Chinese women's tennis player, whom her Communist Chinese government apparently "disappeared."  However, the head of Interpol disappeared, too, and that deserves more attention.

Because Peng was an international figure and used social media to claim that a "high-ranking government official" in China sexually assaulted her, the media were eager to cover her disappearance — mostly because of the political popularity and sensitivity to the #MeToo movement.  After her disappearance, all mention of the sexual assault was scrubbed from the internet.

Following an international outcry, Peng appeared via a Zoom call with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which will be hosting February's Winter Games in Beijing, to show the world that she was fine and free and not being held by the government.

Unconvinced, the Women's Tennis Association announced that it would be dropping all WTA tennis tournaments held in China and forgoing its ten-year, $1-billion deal with China, presumably until it's convinced that Peng is safe.  Much has been made of the WTA's gutsy stand and loss of revenue, although I suspect that the revenue can be replaced or partially made up by moving the planned Chinese tournaments to other countries.

Regardless of the amount of potentially lost revenue, the WTA is rightly praised for taking a stand, especially considering the other sports deals that are ongoing that ignore the Chinese government's repressive behavior.  The IOC "prefers quiet diplomacy" (read: making money).  The NBA groveled to China (including apologies from superstar players LeBron James and James Harden) when China pulled NBA streaming in 2019 after one NBA general manager tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters.

What is more troubling than Peng's disappearance is the 2018 disappearance of Meng Hongwei, the head of Interpol.  It is not that his disappearance is "worse" than Peng's, but there was no official or unofficial response to his vanishing.

This man was the elected head of Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization, with 195 member-countries!  China claimed he had been taking bribes and was subsequently convicted and given a 13-year prison sentence.  Interpol simply accepted the "effective immediately" resignation letter Meng submitted through China and did nothing except "strongly encourage" China to provide more information.

Images: Meng Hongwei by Diarmuid Green, Web Summit, Sportsfile (CC BY 2.0) and Peng Shuai by si.robi (CC BY 2.0).

Meanwhile, his wife and children are under constant threat and hiding in France.  His wife recently spoke out about the "monster" that is China.  She has not heard from her husband since two short text messages presaging danger on September 25, 2018.

When Meng was elected head of Interpol in 2016, China's critics and dissidents feared he would use his international powers to provide information to the Chinese government and assist the country's repression.  That is probably a good bet and says more about the liberal idiocy of the West than it does of China.

It's now widely assumed that Meng was the victim of a party purge.  His wife is especially infuriated that, as the head of the world's largest police organization, nothing was done to investigate his "resignation."  When she alerted authorities to his disappearance/detention over unspecified violations, the France-based police body was "no help at all."  She correctly argues that, by not taking any kind of stand, Interpol has only encouraged authoritarian behavior from Beijing.

But America and the liberal democratic West, in general, haven't made up their minds about China because of sensitivity to Asians.  While Russia, a much lesser threat to America, is constantly assailed and criticized for all manner of violations, China gets off almost scot-free.  As you read this, 2 million Uighurs in northwestern China continue to be locked in re-education camps and face genocide — not to mention what China does to its own people.  Meanwhile, the West looks the other way.

China will likely take over America's place as the world's pre-eminent superpower sometime in the next 50 years, yet American liberal politicians steadfastly adhere to politically correct dogma, such as condemning the one horrible China-related atrocity — that of referring to COVID as the Wuhan Virus, even though the Spanish Flu and Ebola Virus (from the Ebola River in Africa) names continue in use without any outcry.  Conservative politicians, meanwhile, talk about China but seem distracted.

Apparently, Meng's story has already been written, whereas there is still hope for Peng because China is interested in appearing non-repressive.  Where her story will end no one knows.  She may eventually be released, but China runs the risk of her seeking asylum in another country.  Like any organized crime group, though, China can simply hold the well-being of her friends and family over her head, thereby keeping her in line.

You likely have never heard of Meng Hongwei, and, if she weren't an international sports figure, you would not have heard of Peng Shuai, either.  Unlike Russia, with the pugnacious and ostentatious Putin, China, with Xi Jinping, is much more subtle and skillful at playing the West and exploiting its liberal democratic weaknesses while preserving and expanding its authoritarian role at home and abroad.  America needs to wake up and start planning accordingly — before it's too late.

Alan Calandro is a lifelong independent with a 95% accuracy rate.

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