Tennis star Peng denies abuse allegations

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has denied accusing former deputy prime minister Zhang Gaoli of sexual harassment. Shuai made his remarkable statement in an interview published in Lianhe Zaobao, Singapore’s largest Chinese-language newspaper. VVD MP and that party’s foreign spokesman Ruben Brekelmanns describes it as striking and sad.

In early November, Peng accused former Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli of sexual abuse through the social medium Weibo. Her message was immediately deleted and after that she disappeared for a while. She now says she was at home in Beijing at this time and that no sanctions were imposed on her. When asked about his claims on Weibo, he denied making the allegations. “First of all, I want to emphasize a very important point: I have never said or written anything accusing anyone of sexual abuse. I want to emphasize this point very clearly.’

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‘Sadly’, Brekelmans says, ‘she probably feels compelled to make this statement for her own safety.’ According to Brekelmans, China is concerned about the issue and the regime can do two things: deal with the former deputy prime minister or silence the tennis star. China clearly chooses option two.

The VVD MP thinks tennis association WTA is good at what it has done – no more tournaments until the issue is resolved – and appreciates that Western embassies have spoken about it. A political boycott, as advocated by the US, UK, Australia and Canada, is not a good idea he thinks he can achieve more by going.

‘With the Olympics, China is under a magnifying glass, which is a good time to raise issues like human rights. I think it’s wise to go, but European countries can also decide to align with the rest of the western world. It is difficult to put pressure on China, we have very few means of power.

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WTA remains concerned

Women’s tennis umbrella organization WTA said it is concerned about Shuai’s well-being in response to the interview: ‘We are deeply concerned about her well-being and her ability to communicate without censorship or coercion. We stand by our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation without censorship into his sexual harassment allegations. The WTA has decided not to hold professional tournaments in the country next year.

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About the Author: Piers Parker

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