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#MeToo hits Chinese Communist Party, tennis star alleges sexual assault by former vice-premier

Peng Shuai purportedly made the allegation against China’s former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli in a Weibo post that soon 'disappeared' from the website.

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New Delhi: Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai purportedly took to microblogging website Weibo late Tuesday claiming she was sexually assaulted by Zhang Gaoli, former vice-premier of the People’s Republic of China. Peng added that she later willingly became Zhang’s mistress.

Zhang served on the Communist Party of China’s (CPC’s) Politburo Standing Committee, the top decision-making body in the country, between 2013 and 2018.

The 35-year-old tennis star was ranked world number 1 in women’s doubles in February 2014. She is considered among China’s finest woman tennis players, alongside two-time Grand Slam champion Li Na. Peng also played alongside India tennis icon Sania Mirza during the China Open in 2017.

Peng’s post ‘disappeared’ from Weibo within minutes.

China watchers and journalists posted screenshots of Peng’s purported statement on Twitter, noting that this is the first high-level CPC official to be accused of sexual assault in the #MeToo movement in China.

Chinese researcher Mengyu Dong noted that Weibo users were having discussions about Peng’s post around 8.45pm Indian Standard Time after which “every post referencing Peng Shuai and Zhang Gaoli were gone”.

He added that some Weibo users are continuing to talk about the revelation by using code words.

Also read: Alibaba and Kris Wu, the faces of China’s new #MeToo movement. But politics has final say

Peng claims assault led to on-off relationship

In Peng’s purported statement, she claimed the former vice-premier sexually assaulted her twice. The first incident allegedly took place over ten years ago, and led to an on-and-off consensual relationship, and the second happened three years ago. Peng also claimed the official’s wife had knowledge about the incident.

“About three years ago, Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli, you retired. You contacted Dr Liu from the Tianjin Tennis Center and asked me to play basketball in Beijing’s Kangming Building. After playing in the morning, you and your wife Kang Jie took me to your home. Then brought me into your room, just like when I was in Tianjin more than ten years ago, to have sex with me,” read a Google translation of the purported statement.

ThePrint couldn’t independently verify the statement or its translation.

The tennis star added that the affair was complicated, and she has no evidence of the incidents.

“We had a one-off relationship seven years ago, and then you were promoted to the Standing Committee when you went to Beijing and never contacted me. You originally buried everything in your heart. Since you are not going to be responsible at all, why bother to come to me and take me to your house. Force me to have a relationship with you? I have no evidence, and it is impossible to leave evidence at all,” her purported statement read.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)

Also read: ‘This is love, I need you’: Top Wall Street man’s secrets become public in sexual assault case


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