Hong Kong (CNN)A Chinese tennis star's explosive #MeToo allegation against a erstwhile authorities person has been muffled by broad censorship, with authorities racing to hitch retired immoderate notation of a politically delicate ungraded that has reverberated crossed the Chinese internet.
Peng Shuai, 35, a erstwhile Wimbledon and French Open doubles champion, connected Tuesday accused retired Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of pressuring her into having sex, according to screenshots of a since-deleted station from Peng's verified relationship connected Weibo, China's Twitter-like societal media platform.
CNN could not independently verify the authenticity of the much than 1,600-word post, and has reached retired to Peng for comment, arsenic good arsenic China's State Council Information Office, which handles property inquires for the cardinal government.
In the post, which reads arsenic an unfastened missive to Zhang, she alleges a narration implicit an intermittent play that spanned astatine slightest 10 years. Peng says she opened her bosom to Zhang, who is present 75 years old.
"Why did you person to travel backmost to me, took maine to your location to unit maine to person enactment with you? Yes, I did not person immoderate evidence, and it was simply intolerable to person evidence," she wrote.
"I couldn't picture however disgusted I was, and however galore times I asked myself americium I inactive a human? I consciousness similar a walking corpse. Every time I was acting, which idiosyncratic is the existent me?"
CNN could not scope Zhang, who served connected the ruling Communist Party's 7 idiosyncratic Politburo Standing Committee, the country's ultimate enactment body, from 2012 to 2017 during Chinese person Xi Jinping's archetypal word successful power. He retired arsenic vice premier successful 2018.
In China, apical leaders of Zhang's lasting stay unapproachable and backstage adjacent aft retirement, which makes reaching him to remark for this communicative virtually impossible.
China's fledgling #MeToo movement has targeted academics, NGO workers and celebrities successful the past -- with varying results. But this is the archetypal clip it has reached the precise precocious echelons of the Communist Party.
"We indispensable recognize however singular it is for Peng Shuai to take to talk out. Few radical would person the courageousness to bash that, due to the fact that it could travel astatine the disbursal of the information of yourself and your family," said Lv Pin, a salient Chinese feminist present based successful New York.
Adding to the governmental sensitivity, the ungraded besides came conscionable days earlier a important gathering of enactment elites successful Beijing, which is expected to pave the mode for Xi Jinping to cement a 3rd word successful office.
As Peng's allegations made waves online, censorship kicked successful with a velocity and ferocity unseen successful immoderate of the country's erstwhile #MeToo cases.
Her lengthy post, published soon aft 10 p.m. connected Tuesday, was deleted successful nether 30 minutes. Screenshots of it had initially circulated wide crossed societal media and successful backstage chat groups, but soon they were censored too, on with different posts discussing the case.
Peng's verified account, which has much than fractional a cardinal followers, remains connected Weibo arsenic of Wednesday evening. But it has been blocked from searches. All remark sections nether her erstwhile posts person been unopen down too.
In a motion of the unprecedented level of censorship, adjacent a Weibo treatment leafage astir tennis was closed for comments. And obscure references to the ungraded were removed, too.
On Douban, China's IMDB-like movie reappraisal website, the leafage of Korean romance TV amusement "Prime Minister and I" was censored, aft users discussed Peng's lawsuit successful its reappraisal section.
The swift and thorough censorship stands successful stark opposition to the effect to different caller high-profile #MeToo cases, specified arsenic the rape allegations against Canadian-Chinese popular prima Kris Wu.
That ungraded was allowed to summation immense traction connected societal media, dominating apical trending topics connected Weibo for days, portion authorities media amplified the accusation, censuring Wu for his motivation decadence.
Wu was subsequently arrested connected suspicion of rape. Before helium was detained, Wu had denied the allegations connected his idiosyncratic Weibo account. His institution said it was pursuing ineligible enactment against his accuser, calling the accusations "malicious rumors."
Soon afterward, the authorities unleashed a sweeping crackdown connected the amusement industry, canceling a big of "misbehaving celebrities."
Peng claimed successful her station that she archetypal had enactment with Zhang much than 10 years ago, erstwhile Zhang served arsenic the Communist Party brag of Tianjin, a coastal metropolis to the southeast of Beijing. But Zhang broke disconnected interaction aft helium was promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee successful Beijing, according to the post.
It did not explicate the circumstances of their archetypal intersexual engagement.
Then, 1 greeting astir 3 years agone aft Zhang had retired, the station alleges Peng was abruptly invited by him to play tennis successful Beijing. Afterward, she writes, Zhang and his woman brought Peng backmost to their home, wherever Peng claimed she was pressured into having enactment with Zhang.
"That day I did not hold astatine archetypal and was crying each the time," Peng wrote. After meal with Zhang and his wife, and pursuing overmuch persuading from Zhang, she relented, according to the post.
Like Zhang, his woman Kang Jie remains intimately shielded by the authorities and could not beryllium reached for comment.
"I was panicking and I was scared, and I agreed to it with my feelings for you from 7 years ago," the station said.
Peng said she past entered an extramarital narration with Zhang, but she suffered "too overmuch injustice and insults." She claimed they got into a quarrel past week, and Zhang refused to conscionable her and disappeared.
Peng said she did not person grounds to beryllium her allegations, and claimed Zhang was ever disquieted that she would grounds things.
"I cognize that for idiosyncratic of your eminence, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, you said you were not afraid. But adjacent if it's conscionable me, similar an ovum hitting the stone, a moth flying into flames, courting self-destruction, I would archer the information astir us," she wrote. CNN cannot independently verify Peng's claims.
Information surrounding the idiosyncratic lives of elder Chinese officials is typically shrouded successful secrecy, with adjacent immoderate of the astir basal biographical accusation considered taboo. Under Xi, however, the expected extravagances and misdeeds of immoderate disgraced officials caught up successful his anti-corruption run person been made wide public, providing a uncommon model into their backstage lives.
'She's a genuinely outstanding woman'
Despite the censorship, galore societal media users person voiced enactment for Peng, often successful vague terms.
"How hopeless and helpless she indispensable person been," posted a fashionable tennis blogger with much than 200,000 followers. "Hope you enactment safe."
"I don't cognize what other tin I accidental isolated from praying she'll beryllium safe. We've accepted by default that this incidental volition vanish signifier the net -- the station volition disappear, the relationship volition disappear, justness volition disappear; lone the symptom that torments the unfortunate volition not disappear, lone the fearfulness of the adjacent unfortunate volition not disappear," said different comment.
Both posts were aboriginal deleted.
Sexual battle survivors person agelong faced beardown stigma and absorption successful China, astatine the authoritative level arsenic good arsenic among the public. But successful caller years, a increasing fig of women person rallied astir victims who spoke out, arsenic the #MeToo question gathered steam.
Lv, the feminist activistic successful New York, said Peng sparked wide nationalist sympathy partially due to the fact that however palmy she has been successful her nonrecreational career.
In 2013, Peng won the doubles title astatine Wimbledon with her spouse from Taiwan. In 2014, the duo won the French Open treble titles. Peng was besides a erstwhile US Open semi-finalist.
"She is simply a genuinely outstanding woman, the glory of China, a satellite celebrated person. Even women similar her would beryllium trapped successful a predicament similar this," Lv said. "This shows conscionable however galore hurdles Chinese women person to leap implicit connected their pursuit for equality and independence."
"Everybody is disquieted astir her. Nobody knows what would hap to her. I deliberation nationalist attraction to the lawsuit is her biggest protection," she added.