November 23, 2021

Women’s Tennis Stands Up to China

A Chinese tennis star disappeared after making a sexual assault accusation, and the WTA isn’t backing down.

Peng Shuai, a tennis star and former Olympian, has been missing for over two weeks. She disappeared after accusing former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. This is an all-too-familiar story of a rich and powerful older man coercing a younger pretty woman into a mostly non-consensual relationship. Peng, who is a very popular and recognizable athlete not just in China but across the globe, seemed to be desperate to tell her story.

A social media post contained phrases like, “Even if I’m destroying myself, like throwing an egg against a rock, or a moth flying into a flame, I will still speak out the truth about us,” and, “I couldn’t describe how disgusted I was, and how many times I asked myself, ‘Am I still a human?’ I feel like a walking corpse. Every day I was acting. Which person is the real me?”

Coming forward with this sort of accusation is a kind of reckless bravery. Clearly, Peng knew she would be silenced. And within half an hour of that post appearing, she was. The Chinese censors immediately went to work removing the post, including screenshots, Internet searches, and private group discussions.

After international outcry, there did appear on a Chinese Communist Party-controlled station a screenshot of a supposed message from Peng to the Women’s Tennis Association CEO Steve Simon. It said, “I’m not missing, nor I am unsafe. I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine.” Simon confirmed that he did indeed receive this email message, but he is doubtful that came from Peng.

Hot Air’s Allahpundit thinks the unconvincing nature of the message is the point: “The CCP doesn’t want you to believe that Peng actually wrote this. They want to make it obvious to you that she didn’t, to drive home the fact that they can disappear people and speak for them whenever they like.” This is almost certainly true. China has shown again and again that it can get away with anything it wants, like taking over Hong Kong, and the international community will do nothing.

Videos did pop up over the weekend of Peng entering a restaurant and attending an opening ceremony of a youth tennis match final. She also reportedly spoke to officials for the International Olympic Committee via video conference, confirming she was safe and well but asking for privacy. However, this is hardly proof that Peng is not under duress. After all, communists the world over are notorious for peddling propaganda and cajoling the enslaved citizenry into toeing the line.

Steve Simon, for his part, issued a statement declaring his continued concern for Peng’s health and safety, the WTA’s opinion on China’s censoring and silencing, and demanding that her allegations be investigated. He even declared that, if necessary, the WTA will pull out of doing business with China if it refuses. High-profile players such as Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, and Billie Jean King have brought attention to Peng’s allegations and disappearance.

This is a tremendous show of strength by a community of international women’s players, and their strength shames many other organizations with equal cause to abandon China. Take the National Basketball Association (NBA), which is all too happy to bow down to its Chinese overlords. The Boston Celtics’ Enes Kanter seems to be the only one willing to stand up to China out of that whole organization.

An even larger shame comes courtesy of our own country’s president. How many times is Joe Biden going to let Xi Jinping threaten us? Clearly, China waited for a president as weak and feeble as this one to start making threatening moves, whether it be with hypersonic missiles or threatening to invade Taiwan. The Biden administration claimed it was probably going to diplomatically boycott the Olympics in February. Frankly, that’s not enough. A full boycott of American athletes would make a far stronger statement to China: You can’t bully us. It would also ensure the safety of those athletes for games to come. With China making threatening moves toward Taiwan, who’s to say it won’t use the American Olympians as leverage to ensure the U.S. won’t defend Taiwan?

Peng Shuai is just one person who is known and loved by an international community, but, sadly, people disappear in China all the time. There is a whole group of people — the Uyghurs — whom the Chinese government has enslaved and is systematically destroying though modern-day concentration camps and forced female sterilization. Peng’s disappearance has put a spotlight on the dark underbelly of Chinese authoritarianism and, hopefully, will wake people up to the danger this growing superpower poses to the free world.

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