That the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai now denies that she in November accused a Chinese politician of sexual assault is in no way a surprise to Casper Wichmann who is the daily manager of the think tank ThinkChina at the University of Copenhagen.
To DR news he explains that it is another example of China’s Communist Party exercising its power.
Much has been said and written about Peng Shuai since November last year. Is the tennis player safe? Can she speak freely, or is the Chinese government trying to shut her up?
Now, however, the case has taken a new and spectacular turn and in an interview with the French newspaper L’Equipe, she denies ever having accused former Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli of sexual misconduct abuse.
“Sexual abuse? I have never said that anyone has abused me in any way,” Peng Shuai said.
She also denied having disappeared and said she has been living a completely normal life since November.
According to Casper Wichmann, Peng Shuai has been subjected to enormous pressure from the political top. The statements about assault came just before an important summit for the Chinese political party and the Winter Olympics were fast approaching.
China’s reputation in the West is getting worse, and this is another case that speaks into the prejudices about the party and China, Casper Wichmann explains.
“There’s a lot at stake. President Xi Jinping must deliver in front of the population and maintain an image of China as a country in control of its affairs. Therefore, one must assume that Peng Shuai has been pressured to say something like this.”
Even though Peng Shuai has now claimed it was a misunderstanding, Casper Wichmann has a hard time imagining that the incident did not take place. He does not doubt that the Communist Party has forced the tennis player to change her statements.
“There is a possibility that she is speaking the truth but there is a good reason to be suspicious,” Casper Wichmann says.