After the tennis world champion, Peng Shuai, denounced the sexual harassment and abuse of the former vice-president of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Zhang Gaoli, it activated the quick censorship of the social network Weibo. They deleted the message within minutes, increasing the scandal. 

“Unverified post from Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, taken down from Weibo within minutes, in which she claims (again unverified) that she was assaulted by former Vice premier Zhang Gaoli, before willingly becoming his mistress. Highest public #MeToo allegation in China,” tweeted NPR’s Beijing correspondent Emily Feng on Nov. 2.  

Feng added that it was the most high-profile allegation in the “Me Too” movement style, which had a significant impact in the United States in Oct. 2017 when U.S. film producer Harvey Weinstein, and later many others, were accused of sexual abuse. 

An affiliate of the Tennis Forum media illustrates the dimensions of that denunciation within the environment of the CCP. 

“For those who don’t understand internal Chinese politics, think of this as something similar to Monica Lewsinky, except Zhang is of course not as senior as Clinton and Peng Shuai is an actual prominent name when Monica wasn’t,” writes user somethingkindav, from South Korea. 

He adds, “Zhang Gaoli is a very, very big fish, one does not make allegations against a former politburo member and emerge unscathed.”

Likewise, the laowhy86 channel, which has 767,000 subscribers on the YouTube platform, highlights the potential impact that Peng’s revelation may have in China. 

“This wouldn’t be the biggest deal in the world in other countries, but in China, this can change everything. It’s making massive waves right now on the ground in China. The CCP is doing everything they can to scramble to cover it up,” he wrote 

The measures activated by Weibo to remove any reference to this scandal, seems to demonstrate the CCP’s interest in protecting Gaoli’s image. 

However, on Peng Shuai’s Twitter account, one of her messages on the same subject can still be seen.

“Peng Shuai, Zhang Gaoli, members of the Politburo Standing Committee. I know I cannot say it clearly, and it is useless to say it: but I still want to say it. What a hypocrite I am, I admit I am not a good girl, a very bad girl,” Peng wrote. 

She added: “About three years ago, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, retired, contacted Dr. Liu of Tianjin Tennis Center and asked me to play golf in Kangming Building in Beijing.”

Peng was the first Chinese tennis player to be ranked No. 1 in the Women’s Tennis Association doubles rankings in 2014. She also won the Wimbledon doubles title in 2013 and the French Open in 2014.

For his part, Zhang was China’s vice premier from 2013 to 2018, when he oversaw projects such as the Three Gorges Dam, food security and international investment. He met Peng while head of the port city of Tianjin, the Weibo post said, according to The Washington Post.

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