Allegations of sexual assault lobbed by tennis star Peng Shuai against a high-ranking official in the Chinese Communist Party have been removed from her social media by the Beijing government, Chinese feminist supporters say.
Peng alleged on China’s Weibo social media micro blog that former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli sexually assaulted her before she reluctantly agreed to continue an affair with him.
The post was taken down within minutes.
In what is being described as China’s first #MeToo public accusation against a high-ranking official in the Communist Party, state censors are now scrubbing any reference to the allegation on China’s social media platforms, but not before a screenshot started making the rounds, The Washington Post reports.
Now even searches for Peng’s name and the word for “tennis” are blocked on the social-media platform, and her account appears to have been frozen, meaning no one can post messages of support. Peng, who is 35, is said to have agreed to an affair with Zhang, who is in his mid-seventies, according to the since-removed post in which she described how she had been invited to Zhang’s house to play tennis with him and his wife three years ago.
After the match, Peng wrote that Zhang pressured her to have sex. “I never consented that afternoon, crying all the time,” she wrote. She then said she reluctantly agreed to have an affair with him, but that he insisted on keeping it a secret. When he canceled an appointment to discuss the matter on Tuesday, she posted her grievance online. “I know I can’t say it all clearly, and that there’s no use in saying it,” she wrote. “But I still want to say it.”
Peng was the No. 1 ranked doubles tennis player in China in 2014 and won Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014 with her tennis partner Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan. Zhang served as vice premier from 2013 to 2018.
Supporters of China’s stifled feminist movement lauded the tennis star for coming forward with the accusation. Allegations of sexual misconduct are rare in China with many of the accusers punished for coming forward or charged with slander by the accused.
“I know that for someone of your eminence, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, you’ve said that you’re not afraid,” Peng wrote in the deleted post, according to The New York Times. “But even if it’s just me, like an egg hitting a rock, or a moth to the flame, courting self-destruction, I’ll tell the truth about you.”