Peng Shuai, the former world No. 1 tennis doubles player, claimed in a Weibo post that Zhang Gaoli, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, forced her into sex.
Beijing: In a social media post that was later deleted, former world No. 1 tennis doubles player Peng Shuai, one of China’s biggest athletic stars, accused a former Chinese vice premier of forcing her into sex some years ago.
Peng said that Zhang Gaoli, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee – China’s top decision-making body – pushed her into sex and that they afterward had an on-again, off-again consensual relationship, according to a snapshot of her verified Weibo account posted late Tuesday.
Although searches for Peng’s name on China’s tightly regulated internet spiked after the posting, and copies were shared around private WeChat groups and over iMessage, the post was erased roughly half an hour after it was published.
The internet in China is extensively regulated, and the personal lives of prominent officials are a particularly sensitive topic.
Peng did not respond to a request for comment submitted to her Weibo account, despite the fact that she stated in the post that she had no evidence to back up her claims. A request for a response was addressed to APG, a sports marketing agency that claims to represent her on its website.
Requests for comment, including from Zhang, were not immediately responded to by China’s State Council Information Office. When asked about the Weibo post at a normal daily briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said he was unaware of the situation and that “this is not a question related to foreign affairs”.
Requests for comment from Weibo and Tencent, the company behind WeChat, were not responded to.
Until the #MeToo movement began in 2018, when a Beijing college student publicly accused her professor of sexual harassment, sexual harassment and assault were rarely discussed in public in China. Non-governmental organizations, the media, and other industries were affected.
A Weibo timeline function revealed that a hashtag with Peng Shuai’s name had built up more than 20 million views since her post on Tuesday, despite the fact that it had received few to no mentions previous to Tuesday. The hashtag’s popularity peaked around the time of Peng’s post, but then decreased as posts on the subject were removed.
As per NDTV, searches for Peng’s name on Weibo had generated no results by early Wednesday, and comments on the subject had been barred. Users of WeChat and another messaging app, QQ, we’re unable to share screenshots with one another.
The comment and repost options on Peng’s Weibo account were disabled, but older posts were still visible.
Between 2013 and 2018, Zhang, now 75, served as vice premier and party secretary of Shandong, China’s northern state. Between 2012 and 2017, he was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee.
Peng became the world’s No. 1 doubles player in 2014, being the first Chinese player to achieve a top ranking, after winning the doubles titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014.