Fears for Peng Shuai’s Safety After Sexual Assault Complaint

China: On November 2, Peng Shuai, a 35-year-old Chinese tennis player, posted an article on her social media account that detailed an alleged sexual assault of Zhang Gaoli, a 75-year-old former Chinese vice premier. Twenty minutes later, the message was deleted. But the screenshots spread, even as her name was blocked from online searches in China and comments on her account were disabled.

Peng, one of China’s most accomplished players and the first to reach first place – in women’s doubles in 2014 – later fell silent, sparking demands from the Women’s Tennis Association, rights, the United Nations and China’s leading tennis players. to prove her whereabouts and investigate the sexual assault allegations. Although Chinese state media published messages that she allegedly wrote, as well as photographs and pictures that showed her apparently healthy and smiling, it was impossible to verify her whereabouts or her well-being. .

Several countries have raised concerns over Peng, including the United States and Australia, which have asked China to answer questions regarding his welfare.

On Tuesday, China’s Foreign Ministry dismissed concerns about Peng, saying it was “not a diplomatic issue.”

“I hope that some people will stop doing the malicious hype, let alone politicizing,” spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters.

Peng’s treatment came on top of calls for countries to boycott the upcoming Winter Olympics, which will be held in Beijing in February. The United States and others were already considering boycotts in response to China’s massive detention of Uighurs, its crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, and its growing domestic repression.

The only person outside of China known to have had direct contact with Peng was the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, who had a video call with her. According to the IOC, she had asked “that her private life be respected”.

Several human rights groups condemned the call this week, accusing the IOC of working with China to undermine free speech and ignore allegations of sexual assault.

“The IOC has shown in recent days how desperate it is to keep the Games on track, regardless of the human costs,” said Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch.

Two months before Peng’s apparent silence, one of China’s best-known #MeToo and women’s rights activists, Sophia Huang Xueqin, disappeared. It has since emerged that Huang Xueqin, a 33-year-old journalist, has been in detention. She faces charges of “inciting the subversion of state power”.

Indonesia: Joko Widodo, Indonesian President, has taken the first steps to impose a carbon price from April next year as the country prepares to adopt a carbon trading market by 2025.

The new carbon price will apply to operators of coal-fired power plants, who will have to pay for emissions in excess of government-set limits. Initially, the price per tonne will be much lower than international tariffs – a move the government deems necessary to limit increases in the cost of electricity.

Widodo announced plans for the new carbon pricing mechanism at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, but has been criticized for not doing enough to curb activities in the mining and forestry sectors. In July, the government presented its plan to go zero emissions from 2070 to 2060, or sooner. He plans to end the use of coal by 2056.

Indonesia, with a population of 275 million, is the world’s largest exporter of thermal coal, followed by Australia, and the world’s eighth largest emitter of greenhouse gases. About 65 percent of its energy is powered by coal.

Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Indonesia’s finance minister, told Reuters earlier this month that Indonesia could phase out coal-fired power plants by 2040 if it receives sufficient financial support from the international community.

Venezuela: Since 2017, the opposition has refused to participate in the elections in Venezuela, citing concerns about vote-rigging and fraud by the government. Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who won a contested ballot in 2018, has clung to power and oversaw a further decline in the country’s crumbling economy.

Unemployment and inflation have skyrocketed, millions have left the country and, according to a recent study from a local university, 77 percent of the population lives in extreme poverty.

Last weekend, the opposition decided to contest an election for the first time in nearly four years, fielding candidates to the polls for governors and mayors after foreign observers were allowed to monitor the poll. But the opposition performed dismally, winning in just three of the 23 states against Maduro’s ruling Socialist Party and its allies.

The result, and a low voter turnout of just 42 percent, was blamed on political divisions within the opposition and the late decision to compete.

Maduro said the results “must be celebrated”. But his decision to allow election monitoring, as well as his recent political negotiations with the opposition, indicate that he is under pressure to lift foreign sanctions so that oil exports can once again flow freely.

On Monday, opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who is recognized by some countries as the president of Venezuela, admitted the result was disappointing but said the election was unfair. He urged the opposition to unite if they are to compete with Maduro in the next presidential election in 2024.

Austria began its first lockdown on Monday since vaccines became widely available, as the growing number of Covid-19 cases prompted the government to introduce mandatory vaccinations from February 1, 2022.

About 66 percent of Austria’s 8.9 million inhabitants are fully immunized. But the deployment has practically stalled since early August, when the vaccination rate was 52%.

Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said a vaccination warrant was needed because “months of persuasion” – including additional freedoms for those vaccinated – had failed to convince enough people to receive doses. The government is likely to impose fines on those who refuse to be vaccinated, but the ages involved and other details such as medical exemptions have not yet been released.

The lockdown and vaccination mandate sparked a backlash, including mass protests in Vienna that drew far-right groups and neo-Nazis. But other countries in Europe, which also suffer from severe epidemics, are expected to introduce similar measures.

Health experts say worsening epidemics are due to easing restrictions and a lack of masks, as well as large numbers of people unvaccinated and colder weather that has kept people inside. In the past two months, the number of cases in European Union countries has increased from 47,000 per day to 220,000.

Austria’s lockdown is to last a maximum of 20 days, but restrictions may remain in place for those unvaccinated.

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This article first appeared in the print edition of the Saturday Paper on November 27, 2021 under the title “Fears for Peng Shuai’s Safety After Sexual Assault Complaint”.

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