Disappearance of Chinese star sportswoman prompts boycott call

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By: Anjan Roy

Tennis Olympian Peng Shuai had complained of sexual assault by a highest ranking Chinese politician.

The cruelty, violence, exploitation of the people by those in power, coercion and society’s acquiescence to all these in spite of awareness about such malaise in current day China unavoidably nudges one to wonder how come material wellbeing could go with such social degradation.

China, beyond any doubt, is the sterling example of a successful economic transition from being a poverty-ridden country to the second largest economy in the world within a span of just around three decades.

Its military might is now such that even United States is worried about its global supremacy. The country’s record in high technology weaponry has outstripped many of America’s records. China is now at par with the mightiest country, USA, in many areas.

Yet, under the Chinese Communist Party rule, which has now organised itself as a dictatorship under a single man, is showing how vicious a society could become under state control. Does Communist states have to inherently follow a sinister and cruel road? After all, Soviet Union had displayed the same traits in the Stalinist days as China had seen under the rule of Mao Tse Tung and now under Xi Jinping.

Admittedly, Soviet Russia had also scaled the heights of military power, and even today it remains the only other super power, and some measure of material well-being, as present day China.

But then, is material wellbeing worth it when individual freedom and even self-respect would have to be surrendered to authority? Is it that economic development could be achieved only under an absolutist state and not in a free society?

Whatever could be the answer; reports coming out of China paint a grim picture of the country, despite all its great achievements, sullying the image of China to the whole world.

It is a perfect storm. China is now in the vortex of a high-force hurricane over the disappearance of a Chinese tennis Olympian, after she complained of sexual assault by an elite Chinese politician.

This could not have come at a worse time when China is slated to host the Winter Olympics in 2022 in a few months. China is facing a series of adverse image incidents since recently and the Peng controversy is proving inflammable material.

Only last week, Chinese administration had sent in a couple of municipal workers into the house of someone who had to shift to a quarantine centre over suspected covid infection. The municipal workers had barged into her home and killed her pet corgi (dog) with crow bars, hitting it as it sought to seek shelter from the assailants under tables in the bed room.

The CCTV in the home had even recorded the violence in the home of a private citizen and the faint wailing of the dying dog. There was no prior test of the dog if it had covid infection but the municipal workers killed it.

The incidence had given rise to vortex of protests in the Chinese social media and the authorities had no face to answer.

But now, the disappearance of a celebrity sportswoman, who happens to be a most readily recognisable face in international tennis circuit, adds to the deep negative image of the country.

Complaining of human rights abuses in Xinjiang province and atrocities against the Uighur people, many western countries are criticising China.

US President Joe Biden had given a call for diplomatic boycott of the China Winter Olympics by the US. The sudden disappearance of the tennis superstar has now added new pressure on the Chinese authorities.

Peng Shuai, a three-time Olympian, representing China at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, London in 2012, and Beijing in 2008, had complained of repeated sexual assault by Zhang Gaoli, former vice-premier of China, at his home.

In a social post on Wiebo, a Chinese Twitter-like platform, she wrote that vice-premier Zhang had repeated taken Peng to his home and forced her to have sex with him. She questioned why did he have to subject her to such treatment and devastating her in every way.

Since her post on November 2, Peng had literally disappeared and her social media post has been deleted. This was a complaint against the best core of Chinese Communist Party and those at the stratosphere of Chinese political hierarchy.

Peng’s complaint had rocked the Chinese elite schools where she has huge fan following and international audience. Recently a post was put out which had literally retracted all the complaints regarding sexual assault by Zhang Gaoli, who lives in Beijing among the elite senior leaders.

Doubting the veracity of the later post absolving Zhang of misdoing, international tennis circuits are now threatening to boycott China and withdraw from that country.

Steve Simon, head of the Women Tennis Association (WTA), had threatened to pull out of China right away, jeopardising potential billion dollar commitments in the face of Peng’s disappearance.

Tennis celebrities like Serena Williams and Noami Osaka have joined in the protest and expressed deep concern over her fate.

No one is sure about her whereabouts and they are demanding immediate action to secure her safety in China. (IPA Service)

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