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Where is Zhang Gaoli? Chinese politician accused by tennis star Peng keeps out of sight By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A file picture of China’s Peng Shuai serving throughout a match on the Australian Open on January 15, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su

By Yew Lun Tian

BEIJING (Reuters) – Even as Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai appeared on a video name with the Olympics chief, the previous vice premier she accused of sexual assault has stayed silent and out of sight – sustaining the veil of secrecy that shrouds China’s political elite.

Zhang Gaoli, who turns 75 this month, was accused by the previous Olympian in a Nov. 2 social media put up of coercing her into intercourse three years in the past. Peng stated she and Zhang, who was vice premier when Beijing was awarded the upcoming Winter Games, had carried out an on-off consensual relationship till he broke up together with her.

Her put up was deleted quickly after it was printed and the subject has been blocked on-line in China. But when she vanished from public view for almost three weeks, worldwide concern for her security was ignited, accompanied by the #WhereIsPengShuai hashtag.

Peng, 35, made a sequence of appearances over the previous weekend, together with a video name with International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, however they’ve did not dispel doubts amongst fellow athletes and international organisations over her welfare. Amnesty International accused the IOC and Bach of participating in a “whitewash of possible human rights violations” by China forward of the Games in February.

Less consideration has targeted on Zhang, who retired in 2018 and like almost all high Chinese leaders stays out of the general public eye in retirement. He and the Chinese authorities haven’t straight commented on Peng’s claims, which Reuters has been unable to confirm.

China’s State Council Information Office didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark, and has not commented on Peng’s put up or made Zhang out there for remark.

“Letting Zhang come out to speak will result in a reputational loss that it doesn’t want just before the Winter Games,” stated Alfred Wu, affiliate professor on the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore.

“Even if the party does decide to take internal disciplinary action against Zhang, they won’t announce it right away, but will wait for the storm to blow over first, so as to show strength,” he added.

TIANJIN BOSS

Zhang’s final look was on July 1, when he was seated on the southern ramparts of the Forbidden City in Beijing for the 100th anniversary of the founding of China’s ruling Communist Party. The web site is not removed from the Great Hall of the People the place six years earlier he made a “solemn commitment” to a profitable Winter Games on the Beijing Olympic Organising Committee’s launch ceremony.

From 2007 to 2012,Zhang was the highest political chief within the metropolis of Tianjin. Under his watch, the as soon as run-down provincial-level metropolis southeast of Beijing grew to become China’s quickest rising area in 2011.

As rating vice premier from 2013 to 2018, he was in cost of financial issues, together with President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road initiative, and headed a “leading small group” overseeing the Winter Olympics earlier than handing over to present vice premier Han Zheng in 2018.

In 2016, he met with Bach himself, telling the IOC boss that work was being carried out to “make sure the 2022 Beijing Winter Games are fantastic, extraordinary and excellent,” in line with a report on the English-language web site of the Chinese authorities.

Peng alleged in her Weibo (NASDAQ:) put up that she first met Zhang and had intercourse with him in Tianjin. She stated that quickly after Zhang retired, he acquired in contact once more by means of a sports activities physician and rekindled the connection.

“You stopped contacting me after you were promoted to Beijing. I had wanted to bury everything inside my heart. Since you don’t intend to take responsibility, why did you still look for me, and force me to have sex with you at your house?” she wrote.

Peng additionally alleged in her put up that Zhang’s spouse, Kang Jie, knew concerning the relationship. As with wives of most of China’s political leaders, little or no is identified about Kang, together with her age. The couple have a son.

HISTORY OF SILENCE

Zhang’s silence is in keeping with how social gathering leaders have dealt previously with allegations starting from corruption accusations within the Panama Papers to rumours of extramarital affairs, specialists say.

Making a sweeping marketing campaign to root out corruption an indicator of his nine-year tenure, Xi has demanded that social gathering officers “be able to pass the toughest tests” of political, skilled and household morals.

Zhang’s solely choice is silence, in line with Chen Daoyin, previously an affiliate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law and now based mostly in Chile, the place he has been carefully following the case.

“If he denies, he won’t be credible, because as a result of Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, now everyone in China knows it is common for Chinese officials to use power for sex,” Chen stated.

Typically, accusations of sexual misconduct by officers are solely talked about after an investigation for political or financial crimes, virtually added as an aggravating issue.

Having struggled to realize traction, China’s #MeToo motion has come below contemporary focus following the Peng case. No high-level social gathering official has been equally accused as Zhang.

“The party sees itself as above the law and is not accountable to anyone other than its leaders,” stated Wu Qiang, a Beijing-based creator, previously with Tsinghua University.

“If he admits to Peng’s allegation, then Peng could become a symbol that China’s feminist movement can rally around, which can potentially pose a challenge to the power of the party,” stated Chen, the previous affiliate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

(This story corrects attribution in quote to Chen, not Wu, in final paragraph)


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