Some of the world’s stellar tennis players, upset by the disappearance of their colleague Peng Shuai, they demand clarifications from the Chinese Communist Party.
So far it has been a confrontation with little visible impact. Players like Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and Novak DjokovicJoined by tennis governing bodies, human rights groups and various sports associations, they are trying to turn their stellar status into power.
Peng disappeared more than two weeks ago after denouncing former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, who was a member of the all-powerful Standing Committee of the Political Bureau and a deputy to Secretary-General Xi Jinping, for sexual assault.
Athletes have sensed that there is a point where they can put pressure on China.
Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, have joined those who demand that the whereabouts of Peng Shuai be clarified
Barely missing two and a half months to the Winter Olympics Beijing, which faces a diplomatic boycott over allegations of crimes against humanity against at least 1 million Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities. NBA basketball player Enes Kanter has been the most outspoken in defending the Uyghurs, calling Xi a “brutal dictator.”
Peng’s is a unique case. A stellar athlete, she has a platform and credibility that few women in China enjoy. The attempt to silence her reflects that the Communist Party is determined to squash any criticism of its leaders and prevent any organized public response.
Athletes are of high political importance because they are known and admired. The party publicizes its victories, especially those of a triple Olympic winner like Peng, as proof of the strength that the country acquires under its regime.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has repeatedly said that it is not aware of the case. Spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters on Friday that the case “is not a diplomatic matter and I am not aware of the situation.”
On November 2, Peng wrote on social media that three years ago she was forced to have sex with Zhang. The message was quickly deleted from Peng’s verified account on the Weibo social network. But the screenshots of the accusations were released online.
Since then, the athletes of the world have spoken.
“Censorship is never OK at any cost,” Osaka wrote with the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai (where is Peng Shuai).
Williams added: “This should be investigated and we should not remain silent.”
“This is terrifying. I mean there is a missing person, ”Djokovic said at the ATP Finals in Turin, Italy. “The whole community, the tennis community must support her, her and her family, make sure that she is well and safe because if they want to do tournaments on Chinese soil without solving this situation, it would be a bit strange.