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Who is Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai and what’s going on with Zhang Gaoli’s allegations?


Peng, 35, one of China’s most recognizable athletes, accused former vice premier Zhang Gaoli of forcing her to have sex, screenshots show from media article social networks deleted since November 2.

Here’s what you need to know about the charge – and the evolution of the fallout.

Who is Peng Shuai?

Peng is a two-time doubles Grand Slam champion and one of China’s top tennis players.

Originally from Hunan, central China, the 35-year-old made history in 2014 when she became the first Chinese player – male or female – to reach the world’s No. 1 doubles ranking.

Her two major doubles titles were won at Wimbledon in 2013 and Roland Garros in 2014. Peng also reached the singles semi-finals at the 2014 US Open, and is a three-time Olympian. She won 25 touring titles and was ranked 17th in the world in singles.

The international success of Peng and fellow Chinese tennis stars Li Na and Zheng Jie has helped spike the sport’s popularity in China, especially for women’s football.

Who is Zhang Gaoli and what accusations has Peng made?

Zhang Gaoli, 75, served from 2012 to 2017 on the ruling Communist Party’s seven-person Standing Committee on Politiburo during Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s first term in office. He retired as Deputy Prime Minister in 2018.

In a social media post deleted since Nov. 2, Peng accused Zhang of forcing her to have sex and alleges an intermittent relationship that lasted for at least 10 years.

About three years ago, after Zhang retired, the post alleges that Peng was invited by him to play tennis in Beijing. Subsequently, she wrote, Zhang and his wife brought Peng to their home, where Peng claimed that she was pressured into having sex with Zhang.

“That afternoon, I disagreed at first and cried all the time,” Peng wrote. After dinner with Zhang and his wife, and after convincing Zhang a lot, she gave in, according to the message.

Who is Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai and what’s going on with Zhang Gaoli’s allegations?

“Why did you have to come back to me, take me to your place to force me to have sex with you?” ” she wrote.

“I couldn’t describe how disgusted I was, and how many times I’ve wondered if I’m still human? I feel like a walking corpse. Every day I acted, which person is the real me ? ”

Peng said she did not have any evidence to prove her claims and claimed that Zhang was still worried that she was recording things.

CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of a message longer than 1600 words.

What happened to him ?

Peng’s explosive #MeToo allegation prompted Chinese censors to respond at an unprecedented level.

His post on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, was deleted within 30 minutes of its posting, and censors deleted all mention of the accusation online. His Weibo account, which has more than half a million subscribers, is still blocked for researchers on the platform.

Peng has not been seen in public since the prosecution, and her whereabouts have not been publicly disclosed.

CNN has repeatedly sought comments from her and the Chinese State Council, which handles press inquiries for the central government.

WTA chief Simon told CNN he had been in conversation with his counterparts at the Chinese Tennis Association, who had assured Peng was not injured in Beijing. However, attempts to reach Peng directly were unsuccessful, he said.

What did the authorities say?

Chinese authorities have so far refused to publicly acknowledge Peng’s allegations against Zhang.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in separate comments on Nov. 17-18 that the issue “was not a diplomatic issue,” and declined to comment further to reporters.

But on November 17, Chinese state media published an email, allegedly sent to WTA’s Simon from Peng, going back over her allegations and saying she was fine.

Simon questioned the veracity of the email, describing it as a “staged statement of some type”. He called on China to provide “independent and verifiable proof” that Peng is safe.

Who is Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai and what’s going on with Zhang Gaoli’s allegations?

“If she was forced to write it, someone wrote it for her, we don’t know,” he said. “But at this point, I don’t think it’s valid and we won’t be comfortable until we have a chance to speak with her,” he added.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it would not comment on the matter and suggested that “quiet diplomacy” should be approached, according to Reuters.

Concern has been raised over Peng’s disappearance, with some of the world’s best tennis players speaking using the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.

Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Billie Jean King and Chris Evert are among those expressing their shock and calling for her allegations to be investigated.

What happens next?

Chinese authorities are under significant pressure to provide proof that Peng is safe. WTA chief Simon said he was prepared to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in business in China if it was not fully considered.

“We are definitely ready to pull our business and face all the complications that come with it,” Simon said in a Nov. 18 interview with CNN. “Because it’s definitely, it’s bigger than the business,” he added.

And tennis in China is big business, with the WTA’s commitments alone amounting to around $ 1 billion. The WTA is also headquartered in Asia-Pacific based in Beijing, and the WTA has a 10-year agreement with China to host the WTA Finals in the city of Shenzhen in southern China.

The controversy could also impact the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, which kick off on February 4.

The WTA has been more forceful than other organizations that have clashed with the Chinese authorities on issues of freedom of expression and human rights in the past. Sports stars or companies speaking out have faced significant public and political backlash, as well as loss of access.

Natasha Kassam, director of public opinion and foreign policy at the Lowy Institute, said the WTA had some influence over China.

“Most of the other cases where we’ve seen China interfering with sports organizations, they haven’t seen a colleague or teammate disappear. It’s on a different level. So the WTA reaction is strong, and c ‘is useful, and it uses the leverage it has. “

CNN’s Nectar Gan, Rhea Mogul, Erin Burnett and Yong Xiong contributed reporting.

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