China. Former deputy prime minister accused of molesting tennis player Peng Shuai does not appear in public

After more than three weeks of absence, Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai appeared in public. But the former deputy prime minister Zhang Gaoli, whom Shuai accused of molesting, remains elusive. The Reuters Agency stressed that the behavior of a Chinese official is typical of high-ranking officials of the Communist Party of China, who remain silent in the face of the accusations.

In early November, on the Weibo social network, a tennis player accused Zhang Gaoli of sexual harassment. Her entry was quickly removed by censorship, and Peng showed no sign of life for almost three weeks. Over the weekend, she appeared on tapes published by the Chinese media and spoke via video with IOC chief Thomas Bach, but that did not allay all fears.

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The disappearance of Peng has caused great concern in the world, and the campaign under the slogan “Where is Peng Shuai?” Many celebrities joined on social media, including tennis players Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka, and footballer Gerard Pique. The WTA organization has threatened to cancel all tournaments in China if the matter is not cleared.

IOC chief Thomase Bach talks to tennis player Peng ShuaiEPA / OIS / IOC / INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE / GREG MARTIN HANDOUT HANDOUT

He played a “key role” in the efforts to win the Beijing Games

Much less attention was paid to Zhang, who, like nearly all high-ranking officials of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), remains in the shadows after his retirement, the Reuters news agency writes on Thursday.

Zhang Gaoli, 75, was an influential politician before his retirement in 2018 and played a “key role” in Beijing’s successful efforts to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, recalls the US Wall Street Journal. Reuters stresses that Zhang was the deputy prime minister at the time. In 2012-2017, he also sat on the seven-person Standing Committee of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CCP, which exercises the main power in the state.

Zhang GaoliShutterstock

In 2016, Zhang met with the IOC chief and told him that China is working to “ensure that the Beijing 2022 Olympics are fantastic, unique and perfect,” according to Chinese state media coverage.

“If he denies it won’t be credible”

Zhang’s silence does not surprise observers who recall that party dignitaries tended to behave similarly when faced with accusations of corruption or rumors of alleged love affairs. They also mention a massive anti-corruption campaign led by CCP Secretary General Xi Jinping, which demands that officials “be able to pass the toughest tests” regarding political, professional and family morality.

Chen Daoyin’s former deputy prime minister has no choice but to remain silent, according to a former lecturer at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, Chen Daoyin. “If he denies it, it will not be credible because as a result of Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, everyone in China knows that the use of power for sex is common among Chinese officials,” said the expert.

Peng ShuaiFRANCIS MALASIG / PAP / EPA

“If she pleads with (made by) Peng, then she could become a symbol around which the Chinese feminist movement could unite, potentially challenging party power,” Chen said.

Main photo source: Shutterstock

About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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