Tennis star's disappearance 'match point' for MeToo in China?

China boasts an interesting history concerning courageous women establishing firsts.

The first female general, Hao Fu, lived about 3,200 years ago, leading a force of 13,000 male warriors. The first female emperor of China was Wu Zetian (624-705) of the Tang dynasty who achieved that goal, leaving a trail of male bodies while blazing her path to power. And just this month, the first Chinese female to walk in space, Wang Yaping, did so as part of the Shenzhou-13 mission at the Chinese Space Station.

A Chinese woman named Peng Shuai, 35, is a double first achiever – one of her firsts representing incredible skill, demonstrated in 2014; the other representing incredible courage, only achieved two weeks ago.

Peng is a professional tennis player who became the first Chinese woman ever to be ranked by the World Tennis Association (WTA) as No. 1 doubles. But a more recent first may well have placed her in tremendous danger.

Earlier this month, Peng went public with accusations of sexual misconduct by senior former Politburo official and Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli. She wrote a lengthy tell-all social media post about the elderly married Zhang’s sexual transgressions, claiming he forced her to have sex with him. Zhang served as a Politburo member during the first term of current President Xi Jinping. As there are only seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, which is the highest authority in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Zhang is clearly no political lightweight.

Over the past few decades, other Chinese women have leveled accusations against senior CCP officials. However, none was willing to reveal her identity, recognizing the risks of doing so. Due to this unwillingness, such claims were suppressed, dying a quick death.

One of China’s most notorious womanizers of modern times was Chairman Mao Zedong whose endless sexual appetite apparently set the stage for leaders who followed. But Peng became the first Chinese woman with the courage to identify herself in bringing claims of sexual allegations against a top CCP leader. As she disappeared shortly thereafter, she may have paid a hefty price for doing so.

Whether Peng’s disappearance is the result of orders at the top, from President Xi, or the independent actions of Zhang, remains unclear. However, the fact the Chinese government has censored any discussion about Peng’s accusations does not bode well for the tennis star.

China undoubtedly wants Peng’s claim, like the claims of others before her, to similarly die a quick death. But that is unlikely to happen. Her high-profile visibility within the tennis world has already prompted the WTA to demand an investigation. Other tennis stars are calling out the Chinese government as well, such as 18-time Grand Slam winner Chris Evert who has known Peng for over two decades.

Concerns about Peng’s fate only heightened when WTA Chairman Steve Simon cast doubt upon the veracity of an email allegedly received from her after her disappearance. He said, “I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believe what is being attributed to her” and that the world needs “independent and verifiable proof that she is safe.”

The alleged email from Peng stated she was not missing or unsafe but simply at home resting. She also criticized the WTA for releasing unverified information about her without her consent, further stating the allegation of sexual assault was not true. But since the repeated efforts of the WTA’s Simon to contact Peng have proven unsuccessful and if, as she suggests, she is safe and just resting, why would she not be responsive to his numerous inquiries? Peng’s email smacks too much of either coercion or someone other than her being the originator.

It would not be surprising if Peng has been forcibly restrained from having any contact with the outside world. With China’s leadership currently dealing with claims the coronavirus leaked from its Wuhan laboratory, with their beating war drums over reclaiming Taiwan, with concerns raised about their use of Uighur slave labor, while the Peng incident pales in comparison, it too shines the light of truth into the dark corners of China’s leadership. At a time it is content that American liberals are sufficiently denigrating their own country over false evils, it does not want to have its own real evils exposed to the light of day.

The Chinese leadership must be unfamiliar with the lyrics of the Helen Reddy song, “I Am Woman.” Those words convey a strong message, “I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore. …” They espouse the commitment of women not to be victimized again. If the response Chinese leaders have naively chosen is to forcefully silence Peng, they will soon hopefully hear the “roar in numbers too big to ignore” of an international MeToo chorus determined to expose the evil lying within the CCP.

While China’s past has encouraged courageous women to establish firsts, tennis superstar Peng’s fate will undoubtedly determine whether, for that country’s MeToo movement, it is facing “match point.”

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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.

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