Chinese #MeToo scandal erupts after tennis star accuses former government official
BEIJING (AP) – Chinese authorities have shut down virtually all online discussion of alleged sexual assault charges by a Chinese professional tennis star against a former senior government official, showing how bad the ruling Communist Party is. sensitive to such accusations.
In a long social media post that quickly vanished, Peng Shuai wrote that Zhang Gaoli, a former deputy prime minister and member of the party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, had forced her to have sex despite repeated refusals after a game of tennis three years ago. . Her post also stated that they had had sex once seven years ago and that she had feelings for him after that.
Peng is a former leading doubles player, winning 23 tour-level doubles titles including the Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014.
The Associated Press could not verify the authenticity of his post, which was published Tuesday night by his verified account on Weibo, one of China’s major social media platforms. The post was deleted shortly after, and a search on Weibo on behalf of Peng did not return any results. Neither she nor Zhang could be reached for comment.
The charge is the first against a senior government official since the #MeToo movement took hold in China in 2018 before being largely hushed up by authorities the same year. Previous accusations were limited to the media, advocacy groups and academia.
The Communist Party’s response illustrates its determination to control public discourse and restrict social movements that it is not sure to control. While social media has become ubiquitous in China, it remains firmly under the control of the party.
Screenshots of the post circulated on Twitter, which is blocked in China, re-energizing the platform’s discussion of gender relations in China, where men dominate the highest levels of politics and business.
In the message, Peng, 35, wrote that Zhang, now 75, and his wife arranged to play tennis in Beijing about three years ago and then brought her to a room in his home where the assault took place.
“I was so scared that afternoon, never thinking that this thing could happen,” the message said.
Rumors and reports abroad about the relationship between young women and senior officials have long been staples of Chinese politics, starting with the founder of the People’s Republic, Mao Zedong.
Cases brought against current and former officials of the party leader and President Xi Jinping’s decade-long anti-corruption campaign also frequently include accusations of “lascivious lifestyles,” as well as bribes. and abuse of position.
Zhang retired in 2018 and has largely disappeared from public life, as usual with former Chinese officials.
Peng has not played at the highest level since the Qatar Open in February 2020. In singles, she reached the semi-finals of the 2014 US Open and the round of 16 of the Australian Open which has followed, but hasn’t made it past the third round at any major since Wimbledon in 2017.
The Communist Party has increasingly suppressed civil society, including the #MeToo movement which has struggled to gain traction in the country.
Zhou Xiaoxuan, a former intern with Chinese public broadcaster CCTV, was pushed around by passers-by in September as she went to court in a case against a well-known presenter.
The movement has since been largely shut down by authorities as activists found their online publications censored and came under pressure from authorities when they attempted to stage protests.