Professional tennis player, Peng Shuai, has publicly accused China’s former Vice Premier, Zhang Gaoli, of sexual assault.
The 35-year-old made the allegations on Tuesday via her verified Weibo social media account –– China’s version of Twitter.
Peng described how she was assaulted by Zhang in 2018, having been brought into his bedroom to have sex with him. This then began an on and off consensual relationship with the former Politburo Standing Committee member.
The tennis player claimed she had sex with the leader 10 years before the 2018 incident and before he was promoted to the Standing Committee. However, after his retirement, he took her to his home and “forced me to have a relationship” with him.
A matter of minutes after Peng released the allegations, her post was removed from Weibo since it supposedly violated Weibo’s community rules. Searches of her name and even the word “tennis” were also blocked, highlighting the sensitivity of discussing such topics in China.
In the past, authorities have charged government officials with sexual misconduct, but never before has an accusation been made so publicly against a political leader as senior as Zhang.
No comment has been made by Peng or Zhang since the post was deleted. However, China’s recent crackdown on Chinese celebrities means Peng may be prevented from playing professional tennis for the time being.
Having been ranked world number one in doubles back in 2014, Peng was the first Chinese player ever to achieve this feat.
In 2013, she won the Wimbledon ladies doubles title, before following this up with a doubles victory at the French Open in 2014.
Peng has also enjoyed a successful singles career, being ranked as high as 14th back in 2011. Her greatest achievement came when she reached the semi-finals of the US Open in 2014, while she has also defeated a number of top 10 players in the world over the years.
These include the likes of: Kim Clijsters, Amélie Mauresmo, Francesca Schiavone, Jelena Janković, Marion Bartoli, Agnieszka Radwańska and Vera Zvonareva.
Though Peng has not technically retired from tennis, she last played back in February 2020, prior to the pandemic, where she reached the semi-finals in Doha.