Concerns Remain Despite IOC Call With Shuai

Elizabeth Wagner - 23 Nov 2021

While Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai certainly appears to be alive and well from Sunday’s video call with IOC president Thomas Bach, many believe this to have been part and parcel of Chinese government-controlled propaganda.

Also arousing suspicion is the sudden stream of videos and photos all clearly claiming to show a happy and smiling Shuai going about her life and daily business in Beijing, China. The issue with these is that everything is being posted by people in the employment of the Chinese government-controlled media.

The wave of content supposed to act as proof of life for Shuai came suddenly after international outrage at the player’s sudden disappearance following her revelation of sexual assault made against a former high-placed Chinese politician on Nov. 2.

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The Back-Story

Shuai on Nov. 2 accused former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault that supposedly took place during his time in office. Shuai revealed on Weibo how Gaoli had, after an on-again, off-again relationship between the two, lured her to his home and coerced her into having sex with him.

Shuai suddenly disappeared only shortly after her post had gone live, with nobody having heard from her until her video call with the IOC.

But while the tennis star’s on-camera appearance has dispelled at least some of the fears about her safety, not everybody is convinced by the act.

According to a statement issued by a spokesperson for the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), neither the video call nor the flurry of proof of life content has done much of anything to allay the bigger and broader concerns of freedom, safety, and freedom of movement.

HRW Not Convinced  

Another group voicing grave concerns have been human rights activists familiar with Beijing’s well-known and notorious so-called “silencing campaigns”.

According to Maya Wang, who is a senior China researcher at watchdog organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW), the aftermath we’re now seeing following Shuai’s revelations is classic state-controlled propaganda and third-party narrative.

Wang said while it certainly is possible that Shuai could be safe and well, history dictates otherwise. She said Shuai won’t be the first whistle-blower made to disappear by the Chinese government – only to resurface under a false cloud of reassurance.

Wang said to her mind, the video clips that have recently surfaced appear to have been sketchily crafted by someone specifically trying to create a false notion of all being well.

She also added that the call between Shuai and the IOC hardly assuages the organisation’s concerns over the tennis star’s safety.

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