The Peng Shuai Scandal Is Becoming a Diplomatic Crisis for China

The Peng Shuai Scandal Is Becoming a Diplomatic Crisis for China
China’s Peng Shuai reacts during a women’s tennis singles match at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, Nov. 21, 2010 (AP photo by Vincent Yu).

The mysterious disappearance of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai from public view since she accused a top Chinese Communist Party official of sexual assault is growing into a diplomatic crisis for Beijing, amid concerns about her safety and the broader scrutiny of freedoms and the #MeToo movement in China.

Earlier this month, the former Wimbledon and French Open doubles champion and three-time Olympian disappeared from public view after posting a lengthy message on Weibo—the Chinese microblogging site—accusing former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of having sexually assaulted her three years ago. She subsequently reappeared in photos and videos released on China's heavily censored internet, and resurfaced in public earlier this week, but questions persist about her well-being and ability to communicate without coercion. 

The international outcry generated by the initial disappearance of the Chinese tennis star has emerged as a public diplomacy nightmare for Beijing, as China prepares to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

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