Where is Zhang Gaoli? Chinese politician accused by tennis star Peng Shuai remains out of sight

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His post was deleted shortly after it was posted, and the topic was blocked online in China. But when she disappeared from public view for nearly three weeks, international concern for her safety flared, accompanied by the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.

Peng, 35, made a series of appearances over the weekend, including a video call with International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, but they failed to dispel doubts among other athletes and global organizations on his well-being.

Amnesty International has accused the IOC and Bach of participating in “laundering of possible human rights violations” by China ahead of the February Games.

Less attention has focused on Zhang, who retired in 2018 and, like nearly all of China’s top executives, remains out of the public eye when the retired. He and the Chinese government have not directly commented on Peng’s claims, which has not been verified.

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The Chinese State Council’s Information Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and did not comment on Peng’s post or make Zhang available for comment.

“Letting Zhang speak will result in a loss of reputation she doesn’t want right before the Winter Games,” said Alfred Wu, associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore.

“Even if the party decides to take internal disciplinary action against Zhang, it will not announce it right away, but will wait until the storm ends first, in order to show its strength,” he added.

Patron of Tianjin

Zhang’s last appearance was on July 1, as he sat on the southern ramparts of the Forbidden City in Beijing on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

The site is not far from the Grand Palais du Peuple where, six years earlier, he had “solemnly committed” to
Successful Winter Games at Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee Launch Ceremony.

From 2007 to 2012, Zhang was the top political leader in Tianjin City. Under his watch, both dilapidated
The provincial-level metropolis southeast of Beijing became China’s fastest growing region in 2011.

IOC photo shows IOC President Thomas Bach during a video call with Peng Shuai

Source: PAA


As Deputy Prime Minister from 2013 to 2018, he was in charge of economic matters, including President Xi Jinping’s signature initiative, the Belt and Road, and led a “top small group” overseeing Olympic Winter Games before handing over to current Deputy Premier Han Zheng in 2018..

In 2016, he met Bach himself, telling the IOC boss that work was underway to “ensure that the Beijing 2022 Winter Games are fantastic, extraordinary and excellent”, according to a report published on the Chinese government website in English.

Peng alleged in her Weibo article that she first met Zhang and had sex with him in Tianjin. She said that soon after Zhang retired, he reconnected through a sports doctor and rekindled the relationship.

“You stopped contacting me after being promoted in Beijing. I had wanted to bury everything in my heart. Since you don’t intend to take responsibility, why did you still seek me out and force me to have sex with you at your lodge? ”She wrote.

Peng also alleged in his post that Zhang’s wife Kang Jie was aware of the relationship. As with the wives of most Chinese political leaders, very little is known about Kang, including his age. The couple have a son.

History of silence

Zhang’s silence is consistent with how party leaders have dealt in the past with allegations ranging from corruption charges in the Panama Papers to rumors of extramarital affairs, experts say.

Making a sweeping campaign to eradicate corruption the hallmark of his nine-year term, Xi demanded that party officials “be able to pass the most difficult tests” of political, professional and family morals.

Zhang’s only option is silence, according to Chen Daoyin, a former associate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law and now based in Chile, where he is following the case closely.

“If he denies, he will not be credible, because as a result of Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, everyone in China now knows that it is common for Chinese authorities to use power for sexual purposes,” Chen said.

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Typically, accusations of sexual misconduct by officials are only mentioned after an investigation for political or economic crimes, almost added as an aggravating factor.

After struggling to gain traction, China’s #MeToo movement has received renewed attention in the wake of the Peng affair. No high-level party official has been charged in the same manner as Zhang.

“The party considers itself above the law and is accountable to no one other than its leaders,” said Wu Qiang, a Beijing-based author and former Tsinghua University graduate.

“If he admits Peng’s claim, then Peng could become a symbol around which the Chinese feminist movement can rally, which can potentially challenge the party’s power,” said Chen, a former associate professor at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.


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