What drives high profile disappearances in China
Beijing The disappearance of tennis star Peng Shuai in China after she was accused of sexually assaulting a former senior Communist Party official has shed light on similar cases involving political dissidents, artists, businessmen and others who have broken authorities.
Look at those cases and the background to these actions.
What happened to PENG SHUAI?
Despite outcry in the tennis world and the global media, Chinese officials have not directly addressed the accusation made public by the Grand Slam doubles champion Ping more than two weeks ago. Ping said she was sexually assaulted by Zhang Gaoli, a former deputy prime minister and member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the party.
Peng, 35, is a former top-ranked player in women’s doubles and won titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014. She has also competed in three Olympics, making her disappearance more prominent as Beijing prepares to host the tournament. The Winter Games begin on February 4th.
Ping wrote in a lengthy social media post on November 2 that Zhang forced her to have sex three years ago, despite her repeated refusals. The post was quickly deleted from her verified account on Weibo, a leading Chinese social media platform, but screenshots of the explosive accusation quickly spread online in China.
Why do people disappear in China?
China says it is a nation “governed by law,” but the Communist Party ultimately controls power and there are significant gray areas for law enforcement. Control of the press and social media allows the authorities to keep news of the disappearances secret and prevent critics, even though the news often floats gradually through secret and foreign sources.
Among the Chinese celebrities in the entertainment world, getting tangled up with the authorities can be a career killer. For business leaders, this can mean loss of prestige, market access, and possible incarceration. With political dissidents, it often means disappearing into the vast security state, without access to family or legal asylum.
Even before assuming power in 1949, the Communist Party had fought many rounds of fierce internal struggles during which those on the losing side were eliminated without due process of law. The Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976 saw politicians, teachers, and musicians imprisoned for years without charge, often in solitary confinement.
Today, the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection handles most of the main charges against the top officials, who may be out of sight for months before issuing a brief statement saying they are under investigation for “gross violations of rules and regulations”. public, with little or no details of the charges or evidence presented against them.
What famous people are missing?
Notable people who have fallen out of sight under still unclear circumstances include business leader Jack Ma and famous actress Fan Bingbing.
Ma, the most prominent businessman in China and founder of Alibaba Group, the world’s largest e-commerce company, has stopped appearing in public after he criticized regulators for being too conservative in a speech in October 2020.
Days later, the government ordered Ma’s Ant Group, a financial service that grew out of Alibaba’s online payments business, to suspend its debut on the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock markets.
Rumors on social media wondered if Ma had been arrested. Ma’s friends have reportedly said he was not in custody, but decided to remain silent after criticism of his comments. Ma reappeared two months later in a January 2020 video posted by Alibaba but did not mention his disappearance.
Van disappeared for three months before news emerged that tax authorities had ordered her and the companies she represents to pay taxes and fines totaling $130 million.
People can leave the map if they are involved in disputes with good political relations involving business and reputation.
Businesswoman Duan Weihong disappeared in 2017, and her husband, Desmond Shum, said he hadn’t heard of her for four years until he was preparing to publish a book on corruption among Chinese elites. Shum told Time magazine that his wife begged him in a phone call not to publish his book Red Roulette.
Duan, also known as Whitney Duan, was cited by the New York Times in 2012 for a series of articles about the family fortune of then-Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, China’s No. 2 leader. The reason for her disappearance is still unclear.
Real estate mogul Ren Zhiqiang disappeared from public view in March 2020 after criticizing President Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Later that year, Ren was sentenced to 18 years in prison on corruption charges.
What other types of people disappear?
In a rare case that came out in the open, Swedish citizen Gui Minhai disappeared in 2015, when he was believed to have been kidnapped by Chinese agents from his seaside home in Thailand.
He and four others who worked for the same Hong Kong company that published books critical of the Communist Party disappeared around the same time and reappeared months later in police custody in mainland China.
A court in eastern China later sentenced him to 10 years in prison for “illegally providing intelligence information abroad”.
China has also kidnapped some foreigners.
Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained in China in December 2018, shortly after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, at a US extradition request. China delayed announcing their detention for several days, then denied that the arrests were linked. The two were released in September after Meng was allowed to return to China.
Even the scientist, gene-editing researcher He Jiankui, hid from public view for about a year after announcing his controversial research at a conference in Hong Kong. He was eventually convicted of practicing medicine without a license in December 2019.
Accompanying the news of Peng’s disappearance, the wife of the former Interpol chief, who was detained on the return flight to China in September 2018, told The Associated Press that she and her lawyer have not been able to contact him since that date.
State media reported that Meng Hongwei admitted to taking bribes, but Grace Meng said her husband was the victim of political vendetta.
This story is corrected when Ma reappeared in a video.
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