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Peng Shuai allegation: Who is Zhang Gaoli, the former face of China’s Winter Olympics preparations



But now, three years into his retirement and fewer than three months earlier than the Olympics, Zhang has discovered himself at the middle of an explosive #MeToo scandal that has prompted international uproar — amplifying requires a boycott of the Games that he helped arrange.

“Why did you have to come back to me, took me to your home to force me to have sex with you?” Peng alleged in a since-deleted social media publish dated November 2.

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“I know that for someone of your eminence, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, you said you were not afraid. But even if it’s just me, like an egg hitting the stone, a moth flying into flames, courting self-destruction, I would tell the truth about us,” she wrote.

Chinese authorities rushed to muffle Peng with blanket censorship. But as weeks glided by, the ladies’s tennis world started to demand solutions as to Peng’s whereabouts — in addition to a full investigation into her allegations in opposition to Zhang.
Women's tennis is challenging the Chinese government -- and it shows no sign of backing down
Amid rising international considerations about her security and well-being, people working for Chinese government-controlled media and the state sports activities system launched a stream of “proof of life” images and movies of Peng.
Bach, the IOC president who has been photographed with Zhang on not less than one event, held a video name with Peng beneath the shut watch of a Chinese sports activities official, throughout which the three-time Olympian insisted she is “safe and well” and needed to have her “privacy respected.”

But Beijing has prevented any point out of Peng’s sexual assault allegations, with censors blocking all CNN broadcasts on this story in the nation.

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All the whereas, Zhang has remained fully outdoors of public view, and he has not issued any response to the accusation.

Since retirement, Zhang has saved a low profile and pale from public life, and there is no revealed info referring to his present whereabouts. CNN’s repeated requests for remark from China’s State Council Information Office — which handles press inquiries on behalf of the central authorities — have gone unanswered.

Who is Zhang Gaoli?

In public, Zhang had reduce a uninteresting, somewhat unremarkable determine — even by the requirements of the Communist Party, the place senior officers sometimes comply with a decent script whereas on official enterprise and keep out of the highlight in personal.

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In images and on state tv, he was hardly ever seen carrying any expression, and all the time sported impeccable slicked-back, jet-black hair — a coiffure historically favored by senior Chinese officers.

Even after he formally turned one of China’s seven strongest males, Zhang seldom stood out amongst his colleagues on the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, the place he served alongside President Xi Jinping from 2012 to 2017.

According to a 2013 state media profile, Zhang loved tennis, studying and taking part in Chinese chess in his spare time.

But his low-key persona should not disguise the large energy he wielded. He was in cost of the economic system, the power sector and Xi’s signature Belt and Road initiative — in addition to preparations for the Beijing Winter Olympics.

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“There was nothing outstanding about him. He’s a standard technocrat trained and cultivated by the Chinese Communist Party system,” stated Deng Yuwen, a former editor of an official occasion journal who now lives in the United States.

“He had no notable achievements, nor was he involved in particular scandals — he had been a bland figure without any controversy.”

Zhang Gaoli (L) stands with the other six members of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 15, 2012.

Unlike Xi, who was born a “princeling” — a baby of communist revolutionary heroes — which gave him inherent standing and status inside the occasion, Zhang got here from a modest background.

Born in 1946 right into a farmer’s household in a small seaside village in the southeastern province of Fujian, Zhang grew up impoverished. His father died earlier than he turned 3 years previous, and he helped his mom with farm work and fishing from a younger age, in line with state media stories.

But Zhang studied onerous and was admitted to the economics division of Xiamen University, a prestigious establishment in his house province. When he graduated, China was in the midst of the havoc wrought by the Cultural Revolution, a decade of political and social turmoil unleashed by late Chairman Mao Zedong in 1966.

Zhang was assigned a lowly job in a state-owned oil firm in the neighboring province of Guangdong, carrying baggage of cement from the warehouse. According to Chinese state media, it was whereas working there that he met Kang Jie, a colleague who would develop into his spouse, although the report didn’t present additional particulars of their relationship. Zhang ultimately rose by means of the ranks to develop into the occasion boss of the oil firm, and began his political profession from there.

In the ensuing three a long time, Zhang continued his rise. In the Nineteen Nineties, he was put in cost of financial planning for Guangdong, a pioneer for China’s financial reforms. In Guangdong, he additionally had a short stint as the occasion chief of Shenzhen, house to a particular financial zone arrange by late paramount chief Deng Xiaoping and one of China’s quickest rising cities at the time.

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After the flip of the century, Zhang was transferred to Shandong, the third largest provincial economic system of China, earlier than changing into the occasion chief of Tianjin, an necessary port metropolis close to Beijing, in 2007.

Zhang Gaoli, then-Communist Party Secretary of Tianjin, attends a panel discussion of the Tianjin delegation during the 18th Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 9, 2012.

What are the allegations?

It was in Tianjin that Zhang is alleged to have begun a sexual relationship with Peng, in line with the tennis star’s social media publish. Peng claimed in the publish that she first had intercourse with Zhang greater than 10 years in the past, although she didn’t clarify the circumstances.

In 2012, when Xi took the helm of the occasion, Zhang was promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee in Beijing. Peng alleges he broke off contact along with her quickly after.

Then, the publish alleges, one morning about three years in the past after Zhang had retired, Peng was instantly invited by him to play tennis in Beijing. Afterward, she wrote, Zhang and his spouse introduced Peng again to their house, the place Peng claims she was pressured into having intercourse with Zhang.

“That afternoon I did not agree at first and was crying the whole time,” Peng wrote. Then, at dinner with Zhang and his spouse, Zhang tried to speak her into it, in line with the publish.

“You said that the universe was so big that the earth was no more than a grain of sand in comparison, and that we humans were even less than that. You kept talking, trying to persuade me to let go of my ‘mental baggage,'” Peng alleges in the publish.

She alleges she ultimately relented, out of panic and concern, and along with her “feelings” for Zhang from their time in Tianjin, in line with the publish.

Chinese tennis star accuses former top Communist Party leader of sexual assault, triggering blanket censorship

Peng stated she then entered an extramarital relationship with Zhang, however she suffered “too much injustice and insults.” She claimed they acquired right into a quarrel in late October, and Zhang refused to satisfy her and disappeared.

“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?” wrote Peng. CNN couldn’t independently confirm the authenticity of the greater than 1,600-word publish.

At a information convention Tuesday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian declined to touch upon whether or not the Chinese authorities will launch an investigation into Peng’s sexual assault allegations in opposition to Zhang. He repeated earlier feedback made to reporters, saying Peng’s scenario “was not a diplomatic issue.”

He added that the authorities hoped “malicious speculation” about Peng’s well-being and whereabouts would cease, and that her case shouldn’t be politicized.

Peng’s unique publish despatched shock waves by means of Chinese social media, and was deleted inside half-hour. Since then, Chinese censors have been diligently scrubbing her identify and even the vaguest references to her allegations from the web.

Over the previous few days, whereas people linked to state media pushed the narrative that Peng was effectively on worldwide social media platforms blocked in China, the tennis star stays lacking in the nation’s home media and online sphere.
Zhang, in the meantime, has remained silent. His final public look was on July 1, at a grand ceremony celebrating the one centesimal founding anniversary of the occasion in central Beijing. The septuagenarian was seen standing on high of the Gate of Heavenly Peace amongst a row of retired leaders.
Peng Shuai during her first round singles match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia on Jan. 21, 2020.

Will there be an investigation?

The Women’s Tennis Association, in addition to some of the greatest names in tennis and the United Nations have known as for a full, honest and clear investigation into Peng’s allegations in opposition to Zhang.

But up to now, there was no indication an investigation is underway.

Chinese authorities haven’t acknowledged Peng’s accusation, and it stays unclear if Peng has reported her allegations to the police. Peng wrote in the publish that she didn’t have any proof, and “it was simply impossible to have evidence” as a result of Zhang was all the time fearful that she would report issues.

Ling Li, an professional on Chinese politics and regulation at the University of Vienna, stated if Peng’s allegations have been true, Zhang’s extramarital relationship would little doubt be thought to be “improper” and a violation of the “lifestyle discipline” of the occasion.

According to the guidelines of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the occasion’s much-feared disciplinary watchdog, the sanction for such an offense ranges from remonstration to expulsion from the occasion, relying how a lot harm the occasion has suffered from the offense, Li stated.

“Having said that, there has been no party official of (Zhang’s) rank who has been expelled from the party based on a lifestyle offense alone. And an allegation of sexual misconduct does not necessarily trigger an anti-corruption investigation,” she added.

“If past practice is any guide, to launch an anti-corruption investigation against a member of the Politburo or above, the decision needs to be made by the Politburo Standing Committee collectively.”

Xi’s sweeping anti-corruption marketing campaign has beforehand focused senior officers — together with a former Politburo Standing Committee member, however they have been all initiated by the occasion itself. In China, occasion leaders of Zhang’s rank are past reproach from members of the common public, and it might be nearly unthinkable {that a} sexual assault allegation may convey down a high chief.

Deng, the former occasion journal editor, stated it is nearly not possible for the Communist Party to collapse to worldwide stress to conduct a clear investigation into Zhang and launch the outcomes to the world.

Even although Zhang is not seen as an ally of Xi’s (as a substitute, he is thought of to be in the orbit of former President Jiang Zemin and his so-called Shanghai faction), publicly punishing a former elite official who labored so intently with Xi for alleged sexual misconduct would probably be thought of a giant embarrassment not just for the occasion’s picture, but additionally to Xi himself — particularly on condition that Xi has doubled down onerous on imposing occasion self-discipline.

While the personal lives of senior officers stay a intently guarded secret, allegations of extramarital affairs amongst political elites are commonplace — and have lengthy been fodder for public gossip.

Under Xi, the occasion has made an instance of disgraced officers, together with those that have abused their energy for intercourse. In current years, it has develop into widespread for salacious accounts of officers’ tangled personal lives to be revealed in state media following their elimination from workplace on corruption expenses.

“As soon as he came to power, Xi underscored that officials should be honest and upright, and act as moral role models for society. He has demanded Communist Party members to maintain their (ideological) purity,” Deng stated. “While indiscretion in private life is still prevalent among officials, it is a different matter when it is thrust into the public view.”

And as a result of of that, Deng says he believes the occasion has probably already quietly launched an inner investigation into Peng’s allegations. But neither the course of nor the outcome of the probe is probably be introduced externally, he stated.

“The last thing they want to do is to give the international community an impression that they’ve been pressured into doing it,” Deng stated.

Now, the ball is in the court docket of the worldwide sports activities group — whether or not they’ll be glad by the “proof of life” movies of Peng, or if they may proceed to press for a full investigation into her allegations.

As for Zhang, it is probably he would by no means have anticipated that after dedicating a lot of the last years of his profession to preparations for the Winter Olympics, allegations in opposition to him would sooner or later gasoline rising requires a boycott of the Games.

“But if more and more countries join the Olympic boycott and the pressure becomes too acute, we can’t entirely exclude the possibility — however small — that (the party) might throw Zhang under the bus,” stated Deng.

“This was originally a scandal against Zhang, but the (party’s) fetish for power has blunted its response, turning a personal scandal into a national scandal.”


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