December 3, 2021

Peng Shuai

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai went missing for 18 days after accusing former Chinese Communist party leader Zhang Gaoili of sexual assault back on Nov. 2… The former French Open and Wimbledon doubles champion claimed retired Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli forced her into sex three years ago in a since-deleted online post to the Chinese social-media site Weibo. Peng has not been seen in public since, aside from a heavily-scrutinized video Chinese state media released of her at a Beijing restaurant on Saturday and an alleged video call with the president of the International Olympic Committee [IOC] on Sunday…

“The WTA [Women’s Tennis Association] has actively pressured China into confirming Peng's safety and investigating her allegations, and on Dec. 1 took its strongest step yet by suspending all tournaments in the country. The White House, United Nations and European Union also came to Peng's defense, calling for investigations into her allegations and disappearance.” CBS Sports

On November 21, “the IOC said Peng spoke to its president, Thomas Bach, and other officials in a 30-minute video call from Beijing. According to the organization’s statement, she reassured them that she was well and thanked them for their concern — while asking for privacy… Some critics say the IOC’s handling of the call with Peng makes it an active partner in delivering Beijing’s message — while not providing Peng with an open forum to discuss her allegations.” AP News

Both sides praise the WTA’s decision and criticize the IOC:

“This is the flip side to globalization that China is not so keen on. It’s true that the sheer size of the Chinese market gives the Communist Party a huge bargaining chip. But the global market can also bring world-wide attention to China’s unsavory practices, from the suppression of its Uyghur minority to its effort to smother Ms. Peng’s accusation of sexual assault…

“Beijing wins when it forces others to play by its rules. But when an institution such as the WTA refuses to go along, the Chinese simply don’t know how to respond. The result is ham-fisted and unpersuasive, as it’s been with Ms. Peng. And China is publicly embarrassed.”
William McGurn, Wall Street Journal

“Does it matter that a single organization, the women’s tennis tour, takes a stance against the monolithic Chinese government? It matters. It matters in the way that any small act of righteous dissent matters because each has a way of gathering momentum. It matters because, as Vaclav Havel wrote as a dissident under the boot of European communism in the 1960s, ‘Even a purely moral act that has no hope of any immediate and visible political effect can gradually and indirectly, over time, gain in political significance.’…

“Here is what [Arthur] Ashe would say to the question of whether a small stand matters. He would say that tennis, cricket, rugby, soccer and Olympic boycotts of South Africa played monumental roles in helping to finally topple apartheid. He would say that the IOC has utterly lost its compass. He would point out, as he once wrote in a Washington Post editorial, that sports are terribly important to regimes for their ‘self-image of independence, resilience and toughness.’… The WTA just made it a lot harder for other organizations to unembarrassedly coddle or cooperate in China’s governmental brutalism, slavery, detentions and repressions.”
Sally Jenkins, Washington Post

“The fact that other western organizations are too venal and cowardly to pull the plug on China makes today’s show of principle by the WTA that much more admirable… The WTA bailing out of China won’t get Disney or the NBA to pull out but it will give Americans critics a useful line of attack against them. ‘If the WTA cares enough about human rights to boycott China, why don’t you?’ Long-term, that logic may wear down some American corporations…

“Outfits like the NBA will probably try to distinguish their situation from the WTA’s by arguing that the WTA naturally has an obligation to protect one of its own. If Yao Ming were still active in American basketball and the CCP disappeared him, we might be told, then the NBA would certainly take action. (Spoiler: It wouldn’t.) The IOC doesn’t get to use that logic, though, since Peng Shuai is a three-time Olympian. She’s ‘one of their own.’ What are they going to do for her besides rubber-stamping a ChiCom propaganda video purporting to show that she’s fine and that she’s forgotten all about that silly business where she was allegedly raped by the former vice premier?”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

“In Bach’s 30-minute conversation with Peng Shuai, the IOC president showed a scandalous lack of curiosity. For instance, why couldn’t others—like the Women’s Tennis Association—make direct contact with Peng? Can she travel freely? Why was she scrubbed from the Internet in China and then selectively reintroduced after a worldwide furor? Can independent media outlets speak with her? Instead, Bach confirmed that he is willing to do what it takes to keep the Olympic money spigot wide open, even if it means sacrificing stated Olympics principles—like ‘the preservation of human dignity’—on the altar of Olympic-sized profits…

“After his instantly infamous call with Peng Shuai, the chair of the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission relayed that the tennis player ‘appeared to be relaxed. I offered her our support and to stay in touch at any time of her convenience, which she obviously appreciated.’ The callousness of these antiseptic statements are chilling. The IOC is in effect whitewashing a possible kidnapping that was done in the service of covering up a sexual assault.”
Dave Zirin and Jules Boykoff, The Nation

“Beijing chose the IOC over WTA because the regime was confident that the IOC would do its dirty bidding. Whether it was Berlin in 1936, Moscow in 1980, or Beijing in 2008, the IOC has repeatedly served as a useful idiot for the world’s worst authoritarian regimes. It often placed sport at the service of these brutal regimes, letting them abuse its platform to promote their propaganda and hide their atrocities behind staged fanfares and forced smiles.”
Helen Raleigh, The Federalist

“For decades, the IOC has all but ignored the exploitation and abuse of athletes, especially in authoritarian countries. The examples are all too numerous, from the 1936 Berlin Olympics, in which competitors were used to promote Nazi racial ideology, to East Germany’s obvious (and sometimes involuntary) doping of its athletes, to the recent sexual abuse of American gymnasts. Too often, the IOC has either overlooked such violations or offered muted criticism while hoping the problems would be dealt with locally…

The IOC still has an opportunity to live up to the Olympic charter and its commitment to preventing athletes from being abused or exploited. Doing so might offend the hosts of Beijing 2022. Yet the alternative — accepting an Olympics that exists to please sponsors and wealthy, authoritarian patrons — would be far worse. Peng’s plight is a tragedy. But it’s also an opportunity for the IOC to prove that athlete voices matter. All it needs to do is ask China to listen.”
Adam Minter, Bloomberg

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