US Open semifinalist Peng Shuai claims that she was sexually assaulted by former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli. The former doubles world No.1 made those accusations on her official Weibo account on Tuesday, but the post was quickly removed from the social network.
This is the first time that a high-ranking Chinese politician is the subject of a sexual misconduct scandal. Because of Mr. Zhang’ status, everything seemed to have been done to extinguish the fire, so typing in “Peng Shuai” or even the word “tennis” appeared to be censored in search engines in the country.
In her statement that circulates online despite its rapid deletion, the 35-year-old Peng noted that she would not be able to provide evidence for her claims. The WTA player said that Mr. Zhang, now 75 years old, first assaulted her after she came to play tennis with him and his wife: “I never consented that afternoon, crying all the time.”
Peng didn’t mention when exactly her traumatic experience happened. What’s surprising is that she later developed an on-off consensual relationship with Mr. Zhang.
The political leader retired in 2018, when, according to Ms. Peng’s account, the two resumed a relationship that had begun when he served in Tianjin, which was in the period between 2007 and 2012.
Peng has not responded to a request for comment. A sports marketing agency that represents her is also giving no statements. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin was asked about the issue during a regular daily briefing and said that it was not a question relation to foreign affairs. (sources: New York Times, Yahoo, photo: Jimmie48)