Women's Tennis Stands Up to China

3 min read
A Chinese tennis star disappeared after making a sexual assault accusation, and the WTA isn't backing down.
Peng Shuai, a tennis star and former Olympian, has been missing for over two weeks. She disappeared after accusing former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. This is an all-too-familiar story of a rich and powerful older man coercing a younger pretty woman into a mostly non-consensual relationship. Peng, who is a very popular and recognizable athlete not just in China but across the globe, seemed to be desperate to tell her story.

A social media post contained phrases like, "Even if I'm destroying myself, like throwing an egg against a rock, or a moth flying into a flame, I will still speak out the truth about us," and, "I couldn't describe how disgusted I was, and how many times I asked myself, 'Am I still a human?' I feel like a walking corpse. Every day I was acting. Which person is the real me?"

Coming forward with this sort of accusation is a kind of reckless bravery. Clearly, Peng knew she would be silenced. And within half an hour of that post appearing, she was. The Chinese censors immediately went to work removing the post, including screenshots, Internet searches, and private group discussions.

After international outcry, there did appear on a Chinese Communist Party-controlled station a screenshot of a supposed message from Peng to the Women's Tennis Association CEO Steve Simon. It said, "I'm not missing, nor I am unsafe. I've just been resting at home and everything is fine." Simon confirmed that he did indeed receive this email message, but he is doubtful that came from Peng.

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