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Peng Shuai has finally appeared in public. Why is the world not convinced she’s really safe?


Since Friday night, a gentle stream of pictures and movies purporting to indicate a smiling Peng going about her life in Beijing have surfaced on Twitter — all posted by people working for Chinese government-controlled media and the state sport system, on a platform blocked in China.
The obvious propaganda push was adopted Sunday by a video name between Peng and International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach, throughout which the three-time Olympian insisted she is “safe and well, living at her home in Beijing” and “would like to have her privacy respected,” based on an announcement from the IOC.
The flurry of “proof of life” movies got here amid a firestorm of world concern for Peng, who disappeared from the public eye for greater than two weeks after taking to social media to accuse former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of coercing her into intercourse at his house — an explosive and politically delicate allegation that triggered blanket censorship in China.
While Peng’s public reappearances might allay a few of the worst fears about her speedy security and well-being, they’ve didn’t quell broader issues about her freedoms and rising requires a full investigation into her sexual assault allegations.

“It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don’t alleviate or address the WTA’s concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion,” a spokesperson for the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) advised CNN in an announcement, following Peng’s name with the IOC. Human rights advocates who’ve lengthy adopted Beijing’s silencing campaigns are additionally unconvinced. “What we have here is essentially a state-controlled narrative: only the government and its affiliated media are generating and distributing the content about Peng’s story,” stated Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch (HRW). “While it is possible that Peng is well, the history of the Chinese government disappearing people and then making videos of them to prove that they are unharmed when it is, in fact, the opposite, should make us worried about Peng’s safety,” she added. The video clips seem like particularly — but crudely — crafted to indicate that Peng is “free” and residing a “normal” life. In footage launched on Saturday, Peng was seen out to dinner with a number of folks state media journalists have described as “her coach and friends.” The clips made repeated, deliberate references to the dates, whereas Peng stored nodding to the man talking subsequent to her, not saying something. None of the movies made even the vaguest point out of Peng’s sexual assault allegations towards Zhang. Instead, they targeted on her smiles and obvious good-spirits — which state media propagandists had been keen to focus on.

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WTA chief says new video of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai 'insufficient' to assure her safety
“Can any girl fake such sunny smile under pressure?” requested Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of state-run tabloid the Global Times, in a tweet Sunday, accompanying a clip of a smiley Peng signing larged-sized tennis balls for youngsters at a junior tennis match in Beijing.
“Those who suspect Peng Shuai is under duress, how dark they must be inside. There must be many, many forced political performances in their countries,” Hu wrote on Twitter.

The Global Times, like different government-controlled media retailers in China, has made no reference to Peng’s obvious disappearance, nor her allegations towards Zhang. Hu has additionally been cautious on Twitter not to say the purpose why Peng is in the highlight, referring to it solely obliquely as “the thing people talked about.”

Chinese authorities have not acknowledged Peng’s allegations towards Zhang, and there is no indication an investigation is underway. It stays unclear if Peng has reported her allegations to the police. Speaking at a information convention Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian reiterated that Peng’s accusation is not a diplomatic situation and declined to remark additional. Zhang has stored a low profile and pale from public life since his retirement in 2018, and there is no public info regarding his present whereabouts.

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Skepticism as to Peng’s well-being particularly runs excessive amongst Chinese activists who’ve noticed from an in depth vary how the authorities has silenced and coerced their friends.

“The reality is, they have huge control over Peng Shuai — to the extent that it’s enough to make her cooperate and become an actor,” alleged Lv Pin, a distinguished Chinese feminist now based mostly in New York.

“This has happened in plenty of cases in the past. Many ‘criminals’ who were forced to confess on television had to make their performances look real,” she stated, referring to a series of compelled confessions aired on state tv, corresponding to from Chinese human rights attorneys and the Hong Kong booksellers.
Women's tennis is challenging the Chinese government -- and it shows no sign of backing down

Chinese authorities have up to now elected not to position Peng on state tv, maybe conscious that her presence — even solely on its English-language platforms — would run counter to ongoing efforts to censor all discussions round her authentic allegations, and thus generate more questions inside China than solutions. Instead, Peng appeared in a 30-minute video name with IOC officers, accompanied by — and beneath the shut watch of — a Chinese sports activities official who previously served as the Communist Party secretary of the Tennis Administration Center of the General Administration of Sport of China. The interview has not been reported by Chinese state media. But on its web site, the IOC posted an announcement and a photograph of the name. It did not launch the full video, nor clarify the circumstances surrounding the digital assembly, together with the way it was organized. And it seems that IOC officers have walked away from the assembly — a minimum of publicly — concluding that Peng is OK. “I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing fine, which was our main concern,” stated Chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission Emma Terho, who joined the video name together with Li Lingwei, the Chinese sports activities official. By drawing to fast conclusions about Peng’s present state and avoiding any point out of her sexual assault allegations that ignited the entire controversy, analysts say the IOC is placing its personal credibility on the line — and doubtlessly dangers changing into complicit in Beijing’s propaganda push. “The IOC call hardly alleviates our concerns for Peng’s well-being or safety,” stated Wang from the HRW. “In fact, it begs the question of why the IOC appears to be participating in what is essentially a state-controlled narrative, as only the government and its affiliated media have been allowed to tell Peng’s story.”



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