Chinese Tennis Star Disappears After Accusing Former Vice-Premier Of Sexual Assault

Photo: Mai Groves / Shutterstock & Wikimedia Commons
Peng Shuai and Zhang Gaoli

It has been 13 days since anyone has heard publicly from Chinese tennis doubles star Peng Shuai. 

On November 2nd, 2021, Peng Shuai boldly posted a statement on Weibo, a Chinese social media app that is commonly thought of as the Chinese Facebook. 

The statement was a condemnation of one of the highest-profile officials in the Chinese Communist Party.

What happened to Peng Shuai?

Shuai stated in her now-deleted Weibo post that Zhang Gaoli had an affair with her in 2011 and had forced her into having sex with him in 2018. 

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Zhang Gaoli was the Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China between 2013 and 2018, one of the highest-ranking positions in the party.

On its own, this would be extremely concerning and notable, that a national leader might have sexually assaulted a Chinese sports star and then potentially use his position in the party to cover it up.

However, this isn’t just any country’s high-ranking government official, Zhang Gaoli was a prominent member of the Chinese Communist Party.

It is well known that the Chinese Communist Party has an iron grip on speech in the country and will pursue and censor negative opinions with extreme prejudice.

Peng Shuai has not been heard from publicly in 13 days.

Within 20 minutes of the post being made, it was taken down, along with Peng Shuai’s accounts. The censorship was so thorough, that reportedly, even the Chinese word for tennis was censored for a time.

It is virtually unheard of for anyone in the country to publicly make any negative comments about the party or party officials.

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Shuai would not be the first major Chinese public figure to vanish following disputes with the CCP. 

Jack Ma, known for flamboyant and energetic public appearances disappeared for three months at the end of November after making public criticisms of the Chinese financial system.

Peng Shuai has a large following.

Shuai’s disappearance will no doubt ripple through the populace, as she was said to be very popular amongst the Chinese people, which undoubtedly concerns the CCP, as her words will likely carry weight with her supporters.

Her post is the chilling stand of a woman that is loved by her people but knows that she is controlled by her government. The post includes a line that, when translated to English, reads, “But even as an egg hurled at a rock, a moth to a flame for self-destruction, I will speak the truth with you.”

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In Shuai’s post, she seems to know that her words are dangerous and that by posting it she has resigned herself to the party’s twisted systems of control. Shuai knew that this would happen, she knew that by sharing her story she would be putting herself at risk.

The Chinese Communist Party is well-known outside of China for its anti-humanitarian actions. Reports on the effects of the one-child policy and forced abortions read like Orwellian horror stories, while stories of the Uyghur internment camps unerringly evoke images of genocides and concentration camps.

But all of the atrocities committed by the Chinese Communist Party are completely unknown or twisted beyond recognition to the people of China. The CCP’s strict control of media and speech is critical to its control of the Chinese populace.

Unfortunately for Shuai, no one is safe from the CCP’s efforts to maintain control of the national narrative.

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Dan O'Reilly is a writer who covers news, politics, and social justice. Follow him on Twitter.