Following Zhang Gaoli’s public appearance at the 20th National Congress, the Women’s International Tennis Association (WTA) demanded that the Chinese regime conduct a “fair and transparent” investigation into tennis player Peng Shuai’s public accusation of sexual assault.
A year after Peng’s scandalous public denunciation on Weibo, the CCP has not initiated any investigation of Zhang for his misconduct and has not issued any punishment for the 76-year-old former official.
Currently, the WTA and several prominent athletes are concerned about not being able to communicate with Peng.
Steve Simon, head of the Women’s Tennis Association, said he thought he would be able to have some communication with Peng during her tours and tournaments, but that has not happened yet because Peng has not left China for a year.
He said, “We do need to resolve Peng. … We’re comfortable that she’s safe, and we know she’s in Beijing, which is great. We want that. But we haven’t received the assurances that we want with respect to the investigation that we requested,” Simon said. “What’s the real story? That’s all we’ve asked for. What’s the story? he went on to say that Peng was courageous to come forward with her accusation. And all the association wants is a through investigation to find out what did and did not happen and address it appropriately.
The U.S. Congressional-Executive Committee on China (CECC) issued a tweet also expressing concern about the Peng’s case and Zhang’s appearance at the 20th CCP Congress.
Simon, had received an email allegedly from Peng on November 20, 2021 retracting her accusations and stating that she was fine. But the WTA director questioned its veracity and described it as an “elaborate statement.”
Simon said, “Whether she was coerced into writing it, someone wrote it for her, we don’t know.” He added, “But at this point I don’t think there’s any validity in it and we won’t be comfortable until we have a chance to speak with her.”
Peng disappeared from public view immediately after retracting her assault accusation of Zhang on her Weibo account.
Since then, international suspicions have centered on the fact that the famous tennis player was only seen at appearances carefully organized by the Chinese regime, like during the Beijing Olympics or at governmental presentations in China.
Although the CCP and the official media have shown videos of the world champion to demonstrate that she is well, the lack of communication with the tennis player raises doubts.
In a statement, the Simon said that the videos were “insufficient” to prove that Peng did not face coercion from the Chinese regime.
A representative of the Women’s Tennis Association said it was “good to see” Peng in the videos, but knowing the authoritarianism of the Chinese regime, the organization remained concerned that Peng was not communicating.
Coco Gauff, an 18-year-old American tennis player said, “All I can do is think about her and hope she’s doing well.” she added, “We were told she is, but you never know.”
Peng’s public denunciation censored by CCP
Peng had posted on Weibo on November 2, 2021, that she and Zhang met in 2012 and were in a relationship at the time. But over time they stopped seeing each other and then, in 2018, Peng was invited by Zhang and his wife to their home, where she was forced to have sex in front of his wife, who “helped guard” the door so that the tennis player would not escape.
Peng posted a lengthy message, in which she said, “I never consented that afternoon, crying all the time.”
Internet censors immediately deleted not only the messages, but all of Peng’s accounts.
While it is known that in China, women who report sexual assaults face censorship and repression, this is the first time that a senior CCP official was publicly denounced, and that is one of the reasons for such extreme censorship. Censors went so far as to remove the word tennis from the social network, as it is considered a sensitive word.
Chinese human rights lawyer Teng Biao said that no one in China will investigate Peng’s incident and Zhang will not be punished.
Teng said, “The Communist Party will not investigate this matter. They consider it a very politically sensitive matter because it involves the Communist Party’s legitimacy.”
WTA finals suspended in China over concerns about Peng’s freedom
Simon said, in 2021, that he would cancel tournaments in Shenzhen, China if the CCP does not take seriously the worldwide concern over Peng’s sexual abuse allegation.
Simon said, “We’re definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it.”
He went on to say, “We have reached out to her on every phone number and email address and other forms of contact.” He added, There’s so many digital approaches to contact people these days that we have, and to date we still have not been able to get a response.”
While the CCP’s “zero-COVID” policy halted agreed on international sporting events, the WTA canceled events in China due to concerns about the tennis player’s freedom and the absence of an investigation into the Chinese official, denounced by Peng.
For this reason, last year’s WTA Finals were moved to Guadalajara, Mexico.
Simon reaffirmed in Fort Worth on November 7 that the suspension of tournaments in China will not be lifted until there is a credible and transparent investigation into Peng’s allegations.
According to rumors, Peng surprisingly, at the age of 36, announced that she would retire. This increases the WTA’s suspicions that Peng cannot speak or act freely.
So far the Chinese regime has not made a public statement on the matter. Apparently, it is not willing to accept such an accusation about one of its officials, nor renounce the censorship in place, because that would mean accepting that the Chinese regime rules from immorality, abuse, and repression.