Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai accuses Chinese official of sexual coercion

Peng Shuai tennis player sexual assault Zhang Gaoli china

One of China’s biggest star athletes has accused a former Chinese official of sexual coercion. 

Peng’s allegations: Tennis doubles player Peng Shuai alleged in a now-deleted Weibo post on Tuesday that former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli forced her into sex several years ago, reported Reuters.

  • The 35-year-old athlete and world’s No.1 doubles player in 2014, wrote that she eventually engaged in an on-off consensual relationship with the official.
  • Zhang, 75, served as a member of China’s powerful decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, between 2012 and 2017.
  • Peng’s accusation alleged that following Zhang’s retirement around three years ago, the official and his wife invited her to dine with them. It was then that Zhang reportedly coerced  Peng into having sex with him, according to the Washington Post.
  • The tennis star claimed that Zhang left her feeling upset because he insisted that their affair remain secret. Peng was scheduled to meet Zhang on Tuesday to “discuss her grievances,” but he called off the meeting.
  • “I know I can’t say it all clearly, and that there’s no use in saying it,” she purportedly wrote. “But I still want to say it.”
  • High-ranking government officials in China are prohibited from having extramarital affairs, the Washington Post reported in 2014. Peng, however, noted that she could not share any proof to support her claims. Both sides have reportedly declined to comment further on the issue.

Online censors triggered: While Peng’s post was taken down less than an hour after publication, her words gained widespread attention online after users captured screenshots and shared them via private chat groups.

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  • A hashtag containing Peng’s name generated over 20 million views, fueling an immediate surge in online discussions.
  • Peng’s public accusation against a senior official has since been considered by feminist activists as a significant moment for the #MeToo movement in China.
  • The online buzz soon dropped after posts about Peng were removed and discussions of the topic were blocked on Weibo by early Wednesday. Weibo searches for Peng’s name also did not bring up any results, and while WeChat and QQ users were unable to send the screenshots.
  • Online users have since adapted by using coded terms and words that sound similar to Peng and Zhang’s names in comments and discussions.

Featured Image via Getty (left), RTVMalacanang (right)

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