Lost Chinese tennis star reappears in public in Beijing
Beijing Missing tennis star Peng Shuai re-emerged in public on Sunday at a youth tournament in Beijing, according to photos released by the organizer, as the ruling Communist Party tried to calm fears abroad while suppressing information in China about Peng after she accused a prominent leader of having sex. assaults.
The post by the China Open on social media service Weibo made no mention of Peng’s disappearance or accusation. Ping was seen standing by the court, waving and signing large commemorative tennis balls for the children.
The appearance came after the editor-in-chief of a party newspaper on Saturday announced on Twitter, which most Chinese netizens can’t see, that the three-time Olympian will “be seen in public” soon.
The ruling party appears to be trying to allay concern about Peng without acknowledging her disappearance after this month’s former Wimbledon and Paris Open champion Zhang Gaoli, a member of the ruling party’s Standing Committee until 2018, was accused of forcing her into sex.
Ping’s disappearance and government silence in response to pleas for information led to calls for a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February, a prestigious event for the Communist Party. The women’s professional tour threatened to withdraw events from China unless the former No. 1 doubles player’s safety was guaranteed.
Discussion of Peng’s accusation has been removed from websites in China. On Friday, a government spokesman denied knowledge of the protest. The ruling party’s internet filters also prevent most people in China from seeing other overseas social media and most global news outlets.
Comments on Chinese social media on Sunday criticized the Women’s Tennis Association and others who spoke out about Peng, while Chinese-language comments on Twitter mocked the embarrassing release of photos and videos.
“When is the WTA out of China?” A comment on social media service Sina Weibo, “Sleep Time” website, said.
Peng adds to a growing number of Chinese businessmen, activists and ordinary people who have disappeared in recent years after criticizing party figures, in anti-corruption or pro-democracy and labor rights campaigns.
Some reappeared weeks or months later without explanation, indicating that they were warned not to disclose their detention or the reason for it.
The editor-in-chief of the partisan Global Times, Hu Shijin, wrote Saturday on Twitter that Peng “freely stayed at her home” and will appear in public and participate in some activities soon.
The English-language Global Times, aimed at foreign readers, is known for its nationalist tone. Hu uses his Twitter account to criticize foreign governments and point out social and economic problems abroad.
A comment on bobzhang999’s Twitter said, “Hu Dog, with lots of pictures, why don’t you let Bing Shuai speak?”
“Let Bing Shuai’s parents hold a press conference,” another magician who signed him said.
Tennis stars and the WTA have been extraordinarily loud in requesting information about Peng. Companies and other sports groups are reluctant to confront Beijing for fear of losing access to the Chinese market or any other retaliation.
The ruling party has given no indication whether it is investigating Ping’s accusation against Zhao, 75, who left the standing committee in 2018 and has largely disappeared from public life.
Even if Ping’s accusation is held true, people in China often go to jail or face other punishments for embarrassing the party by publicizing complaints about abuses rather than going through the often-unanswered secret, official system.
The situation of star athletes such as Bing is particularly sensitive. State media celebrate their victories as proof that the party is making China strong. But the party is vigilant about making sure it cannot use its public stature and appeal to undermine its image.
WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon expressed concern about Bing’s safety after he posted two videos Saturday that appeared to show her at a restaurant.
“While seeing her is positive, it remains unclear whether she is free and able to make decisions and take action on her own, without coercion or outside interference. This video alone is not enough,” Simon said. “Our relationship with China is at a crossroads. Methods.”
The IOC has been silent about the status of Peng, who has competed in three Olympics, helping to contribute to the IOC’s multimillion-dollar revenue from broadcasting and sponsorship.
“We support the quiet diplomacy” favored by the IOC, Emma Terho, the newly-elected president of the IOC’s Athletes Commission tasked with representing the interests of Olympic athletes, said in a statement on Saturday.
Last week, the foreign arm of state television released an English-language statement attributed to Peng retracting her accusation against Zhang. Simon of the WTA questioned her legality while others said it had raised their concerns about her safety.
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