The Chinese propaganda organs censored press coverage of tennis star Peng Shuai as authorities instructed local media to block reporting on the three-time Olympian.
Peng has allegedly disappeared after posting an essay on her verified Weibo account, a Chinese social media. She accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of pressuring her for sex in a tumultuous on-again, off-again affair.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has expressed its deep concern, demanding that China investigate the case.
But instead of making Peng publicly available, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has opted to prevent further reporting on her disappearance.
According to Bloomberg, local media has blocked all references to Peng so that citizens in the world’s most populous country cannot find information on the CCP senior member’s political scandal.
Weibo has turned off comments on her account. In addition, the story was removed from Chinese-language social media, and international television channels were knocked off the air when Peng was mentioned. And, of course, Western social-media platforms are not widely accessible in China.
The Professional Tennis Players Association has released a statement with hashtag #whereispengshuai, calling for independent evidence confirming the safety and location of Peng.
Although there have been some videos and photos claiming Peng remains safe, their reliability is under suspicion.
Amid the allegations of her disappearance, the International Olympic Committee on Sunday, Nov. 21, said that its President Thomas Bach held a 30-minute call with Peng. Still, it did not release a video of the call.
On Twitter, the CCP–backed Global Times chief editor Hu Xijin posted a video on Saturday containing the first footage of Peng since she made her allegations nearly three weeks ago. Strangely his Weibo account did not mention his scoop—and it did not appear in his newspaper.
“That censorship is evidence of the explosive nature of Peng’s allegations in a political system that bans cadres from extramarital affairs,” Bloomberg wrote.
The scandal comes as China prepares to host the Winter Olympics early next year. The Women’s Tennis Association has threatened to pull its operations in China unless Peng can speak freely.