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Analysis: In Peng case, a glimpse into the machinery of Beijing’s control

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BEIJING, Nov 23 (Reuters) – Tennis star Peng Shuai’s sexual assault allegation and its aftermath have introduced the realities of China’s censorship and secrecy round its management to international consideration simply as Beijing prepares to host the Olympics.

Peng, who was not publicly heard from for practically three weeks after alleging that former vice premier Zhang Gaoli sexually assaulted her, advised International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach on Sunday by video name that she was protected and nicely.

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), which has led requires an investigation into her allegations, remained unconvinced. Some Western governments and high present and former tennis gamers have referred to as for reassurance that Peng is protected.

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While the worldwide furore has been awkward, consultants say the precedence for an more and more assured Beijing is avoiding embarrassment at dwelling for the ruling Communist Party and President Xi Jinping, an method it’ll doubtless follow at the same time as the Olympics places it on the international stage.

“For some years now, China has responded to negative global attention either by giving an unconvincing explanation, or by stoically pretending the criticism isn’t there,” stated Zhang Ming, a retired professor of politics at Renmin University.

Beijing’s censorship machine has allowed it to suppress the scandal domestically in China’s tightly managed our on-line world. Censors shortly deleted Peng’s submit on the Twitter-like Weibo on Nov. 2, and the subject stays blocked from direct on-line dialogue, forcing individuals to make use of linguistic trickery to work round it.

But its makes an attempt to control the narrative have jarred abroad audiences, and the case of Peng – a former Olympian and doubles world primary – has added gasoline to calls from rights teams and politicians in some nations for boycotts of the Winter Games in February.

Efforts by Chinese state media journalists to allay considerations on Twitter, together with the posting of a purported e mail from Peng saying “I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine”, had been criticised by the WTA and a few rights teams as unconvincing. Twitter is blocked in China and these journalists haven’t posted the similar content material on Chinese social media platforms.

Officials in China typically talk about how the nation should “tell China’s story well” on the international stage, stated David Bandurski of the China Media Project, a analysis organisation in Hong Kong.

“In a single stroke, the Peng case has exposed the bankruptcy of these ambitions,” he stated.

China’s State Council Information Office didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

China’s overseas ministry has stated, when requested, that Peng’s case was not a diplomatic query, regardless of the considerations raised by the UK, United States, and France.

On Tuesday, Chinese overseas ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian urged “certain people” to cease the “malicious hyping” and “politicization” of the challenge of Peng.

‘THE THING PEOPLE TALKED ABOUT’

While the Chinese authorities has been silent on Peng’s allegations, Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin, a outstanding state media journalist, has continued to touch upon the case on Twitter, serving as de facto messenger to the world exterior. He has not talked about Zhang, the former vice premier, referring solely to “the thing people talked about”.

“Those who suspect Peng Shuai is under duress, how dark they must be inside. There must be many many forced political performances in their countries,” he tweeted on Sunday.

But the episode is including to requires an Olympic boycott from rights teams and others already crucial of Beijing over its insurance policies in Hong Kong and the remedy of minority Uyghurs in the western area of Xinjiang. President Joe Biden has stated the United States is contemplating a diplomatic boycott, which means no U.S. officers would attend the opening ceremony. learn extra

On Monday, the Global Times revealed an editorial accusing “anti China forces” of making an attempt to make bother forward of the Olympics and stated it was “not worthy” for China to expend vitality on the matter. It didn’t point out Peng.

Temporary disappearances from public life following a scrape with authority should not unheard of in China.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma disappeared from view for 3 months after blasting Chinese regulators in a speech final October. Fan Bingbing, an A-list film star who appeared in the “X-Men” and “Iron Man” franchises, vanished from the public eye for 4 months in 2019 with no purpose given till she was fined over $120 million by Chinese authorities for evading taxes.

A Chinese #MeToo motion took off in 2018 and unfold to universities, NGOs, media and different industries however was largely stifled by authorities, with no circumstances involving any official approaching Zhang’s rank.

The episode additionally demonstrated the excessive secrecy surrounding the nation’s ruling elite, with few particulars of their private lives publicly obtainable. Zhang, who retired from public life in 2018, has not commented on the state of affairs.

In retirement, China’s politicians largely drop from public view, showing solely at ceremonial features.

“The party needs to protect him,” stated Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a Chinese politics professional at Hong Kong Baptist University. “It’s the party’s image at stake.”

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Reporting by Gabriel Crossley and Yew Lun Tian
Editing by Tony Munroe and Raju Gopalakrishnan

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