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China Sex & Gender

The Silent Storm: Peng Shuai’s Weibo Post

Weibo has completely silenced anything relating to Peng Shuai and Zhang Gaoli.

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On the night of November 2nd, a Weibo post by Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai (彭帅) sent shockwaves across social media. In her lengthy post, the tennis star claims she was assaulted by former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli (张高丽) before starting an affair with him.

The 35-year-old Peng Shuai, who has some 574,000 followers on her Weibo account, addressed her post directly to the 75-year-old Zhang Gaoli, who served as China’s senior Vice Premier (2013-2018) and was also a member of China’s highest ruling council, the Politburo Standing Committee (2012-2017).

I know I can’t say it clearly and that it’s useless to say. But I want to say it anyway. I’m such a hypocrite. I’ll admit I’m not a good girl, I’m a bad bad girl,” Peng starts her post.

She then goes on to address what happened three years ago, after the tennis star played in Beijing.

After I had finished playing, you and your wife Kang Jie took me to your home. You took me to your room, and like what happened in Tianjin over ten years ago, you wanted to have sex with me. I was very scared that afternoon, I had not expected things to go this way.

Peng alleges that she had sex with Zhang once seven years earlier, and that she had never heard from him again once he was promoted to the Standing Committee.

I had buried it all inside me, and since you were not planning on taking responsibility at all, why did you come and look for me again, take me to your house, and force me into sex? I have no proof, and it would be impossible for me to keep any evidence. You denied everything afterward (..) That afternoon I originally did not consent and cried the whole time.

Peng goes on to describe how her emotions were complicated and that she began to open up to Zhang afterward, starting an affair with him. The two would play chess, sing, play billiards, and table tennis, and they got along well together.

You told me you loved me,” Peng writes at one point, later saying: “From beginning to end, you have always asked me to keep my relationship with you secret, let alone telling my mother that we were in a relationship.”

Peng describes how it sometimes felt as if Zhang’s wife was like an “empress” while she barely felt like a person anymore: “I felt like a walking corpse. I was pretending so much every day that I didn’t know who the real me was anymore..”

Peng’s post further suggests that the relationship between her and Zhang has now ended since a major dispute on the night of the 30th of October after which she would meet Zhang to talk on November 2nd, but that she was ghosted by him and that he “disappeared” as he did seven years prior to their affair. She posted her letter on that very same night.

Peng says she is left with nothing but her own memories of the past years and without any evidence of anything that has occurred between the two of them.

I know that for someone of your status, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, you’ve said that you’re not afraid,” Peng wrote in her post, “But even it’s like striking a stone with an egg, and courting self-destruction like a moth to the flame, I will tell the truth about you.

Despite the fact that Peng’s post was deleted within thirty minutes after she posted it, screenshots of what she wrote were already flooding WeChat and Twitter.

The Silence after the Storm

Just two days after Peng’s post, Weibo has completely silenced the controversy.

Searching for the name of Zhang Gaoli, no results relating to the post appear. Comment sections on older posts relating to the retired Vice Premier have been shut down.

Peng Shuai, Zhang Gaoli.

Similarly, Peng Shuai only comes up in older stories completely unrelated to this week’s events. Her account also no longer shows up in search results, even though it is officially still online. All of the comment sections on her previous posts have since been restricted.

On other platforms, including search engine Baidu, Q&A website Zhihu, and social networking site Douban, the topic is also nowhere to be found. Baidu trends do show that there’s been a major peak in searches for ‘Peng Shuai’ on November 2nd, when the keyword was searched for nearly two million times.

Since the censorship following Peng’s post has been so strict, there barely is any room for discussion of the topic at all on Chinese social media. Underneath some posts relating to tennis events, netizens hesitantly wonder: “Can we also discuss the Peng x Zhang case here?”

Meanwhile, on Twitter and on English-language media, posts about Peng Shuai are running at full speed.

Most English-language media report about Peng’s story within the context of the global #MeToo movement, suggesting Peng’s post was a “MeToo post.” The tennis star did not mention ‘#Metoo’ in her own writings.

Chinese feminist activist Lü Pin (吕频) also published a ‘Feminist Comment on Pengshuai’s Case‘ via Twitter, in which she praised Peng and wrote that “Peng Shuai is not a member of the organized #MeToo movement, but she is a member of those connected through the effect from such echoes and demonstrations.”

Although there have previously been big cases in China involving women accusing men in powerful positions of sexual abuse, such as the Xianzi versus Zhu Jun case, they have never been as censored as this case is.

In this regard, this story perhaps says more about the person who is accused of sexual misconduct than about the actual account itself. The timing of its publication also matters in light of the upcoming key gathering of the highest-ranking members of the Communist Party – the sixth plenary session of its 19th Central Committee will be held from November 8 to 11.

At time of writing, nothing has come out in Chinese media nor on Chinese social media about Peng’s post. For now, it is the most silent storm Weibo has seen this year.

Update November 21, 2021: Chinese Tennis Star Peng Shuai Attends Fila Kids Junior Tennis Finals

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Godfree Roberts

    November 5, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    Rape committed by a senior official is punishable by death.

    There are precedents for senior officials’ relatives being executed.

    Remember that the first legislation Mao signed into law was the equivalent of our failed Equal Rights Amendment.

  2. Jin

    November 6, 2021 at 10:25 am

    very good blog, super information for expats in China , help them to understand what happen on internet.
    Contrats Manyia.
    I share your website on my facebook, hope it can help.

  3. Steven Su

    November 25, 2021 at 6:05 pm

    She said a lot more about that afternoon.. She originally refused but then the man said he never forgot her. That he wants to take care of her. She wrote that she eventually agreed to have sex after considering she never got over him and still had feelings from 7 years. Then she wrote thar she felt they were good together until she couldn’t handle being a secret mistress.

    The full Weibo translation on reddit shows the entirety of what she wrote yet it’s disappointing to see biased journalism distort what she wrote in full.

    Her reason to write that post was because she was still in love with him and couldn’t handle him ignoring her. Yet no media seems to talk about that for obvious reason to spin.

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China Arts & Entertainment

‘Call Me By Fire’ All-Male Variety Show Becomes Social Media Hit

‘Call Me By Fire’ is the male version of ‘Sister Who Make Waves’ and it’s an instant hit.

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A Chinese reality show starring 33 male celebrities titled Call Me By Fire (披荆斩棘的哥哥) has become an instant hit after its premiere on Mango TV last week.

The show is considered the male version of the hit variety show Sisters Who Make Waves (乘风破浪的姐姐, read more here) but with different rules. The contestants, ranging from age 27 to 57, are all in the entertainment industry; the group includes pianists, singers, dancers, actors, hosts, and rappers.

List of contestants, Mango TV.

They are required to perform individually and in a team for the first episode’s performances. Chinese viewers were surprised to see some of the high-quality performances, which then went viral on social media.

Li Chengxuan (@李承铉 a.k.a. Nathan Lee), who was previously mostly known for being the husband of Chinese actress Qi Wei (戚薇), rapped in a low voice and wowed the audience. The hashtag about his first stage performance on the show garnered more than 120 million views ( #李承铉天上飞舞台#). A video of his performance can be found here.

Li is a former member of the South Korean boy band TAKE. In 2014, the Korean-American pop star married Qi, who later gave birth to their first daughter Lucky. When Qi went back to focusing on her career, Li decided to be a stay-at-home dad.

Just like some of the other show contestants, Li also appeared on the talk show Definition (定义), where he spoke to the female journalist Yi Lijing about his life as a full-time father. In that show, he expressed how he used to think being a full-time parent would be easy. “It takes a lot of time and energy to take care of the baby and the family, but as a result, it always looks like you haven’t done anything all day.”

He describes how he experienced a time of depression during which he tried his best to be a good parent but sometimes just could not control his temper. Li explains how he would regret these moments of anger and then would cry at night when his daughter was asleep.  (Interview video here.)

Li’s experiences as a full-time parent struck a chord among Chinese netizens, especially among stay-at-home moms. The hashtag “Li Chengxuan Was Depressed for Over a Year As a Full-Time Dad” (#李承铉当全职爸爸抑郁了一年多#) received more than 600 million views on Weibo. Under the hashtag, commenters shared their experiences and struggles in being full-time parents.

One netizen wrote: “This is so true. We do so much when taking care of our children, but other people often feel like it’s nothing. When you lose your temper in front of the kid, you feel terrible inside and start to question yourself about why you failed to control yourself, and then you make another promise not to lose your temper anymore.”


Another Weibo user wrote: “See, when a mom looking after her kids feels depressed, it is not because she is weak and sensitive! It is because the job itself will make any human being depressed.”

Li later responded on his Weibo account, saying he just did his part as a parent, and this is what any new mom or new dad will face. That post also received thousands of comments and over 285,000 likes.

So far, the hashtag of the Call me By Fire TV show has received a staggering 4.4 billion views on Weibo (#披荆斩棘的哥哥#).

Image via Sina News.

The show’s performances and Li sharing his struggles as a stay-at-home dad are not the only reasons for the show’s massive success on Chinese social media. Some other related issues also made the show gain more attention.

Even before Call Me By Fire aired, the show already made headlines when the 55-year-old Taiwanese singer Terry Lin Zhixuan (林志炫) reportedly fell off the stage while filming.

Later, one of the contestants left the show after some social media drama. Chinese singer Huo Zun (霍尊) announced his withdrawal from the show after his ex-girlfriend accused him of being a cheater and leaking some WeChat conversation screenshots to prove that he actually disliked the show.

The remaining 32 contestants will enter the real ‘elimination stages’ in the following episodes. The show and highlight clips can be viewed on the Mango TV official site here.

 

By Wendy Huang

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Sex & Gender

Shouqi Ride-Hailing Incident: Hangzhou Female Passenger Jumps from Moving Car

‘Delusional’ or ‘vigilant’? Weibo discussions over the woman who jumped from a moving vehicle when her Shouqi driver deviated from the route.

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After the Didi murders and the Huolala case, the ‘Shouqi incident’ is now making headlines in China, showing that there is still a lot of distrust in car-hailing services among Chinese female passengers.

The story of a female passenger jumping from a moving taxi she had arranged via ride-hailing app Shouqi (首汽约车) has gone viral on Chinese social media.

The passenger, Ms. Gao, jumped from the moving vehicle in the late afternoon of June 12 because she feared for her personal safety after the driver had allegedly deviated from the intended route.

Ms. Gao was traveling from Hangzhou to Fuyang when the incident occurred. The woman states that once she got in the taxi, the driver attempted to make a pass at her and changed the route twice.

Gao eventually decided to jump from the moving car, resulting in a fractured left arm and extensive bruising.

Ms. Gao in hospital, photo via Sohu.com.

Shouqi is a state-backed online ride-hailing platform founded in 2015 that focuses on luxury & high-quality services.

Shouqi Responds

On June 19, Shouqi officially responded to the matter after carrying out an investigation.

According to the Shouqi report, their driver, Zhang, deviated from the navigation route because he opted to take a faster road that had been newly opened and was not recognized by the navigation app yet. Since he had taken this alternative route, the voice navigation kept reminding him that he was taking the wrong route. The female passenger jumped out of the car shortly afterward.

Part of Shouqi’s statement.

Shouqi states that according to protocol, there is an audio recording of the journey. Although the recording did capture the voice navigation indicating the car was deviating from the original route, there was no sign of an altercation or discussion between the driver and the passenger before she jumped out. The company also said it would release the recording to the media if Ms. Gao would give them permission to do so.

After Gao had jumped from the vehicle, driver Zhang allegedly pulled over to check on her and immediately called the emergency number for medical help. Meanwhile, Gao tried to alert other cars that were passing by to get help. Afterward, Zhang drove to the local police station to cooperate with the investigation.

The company’s statement further says that local authorities claim the incident was caused by a “misunderstanding” between the passenger and the driver.

In the statement, the car-hailing company does apologize for the incident. They also claim their driver has been reprimanded for not properly communicating with his passenger. Shouqi furthermore says they will cover the passenger’s medical expenses.

“Fabricated Facts”

On June 20, Ms. Gao wrote up a response to Shouqi’s statement, which she published on social media (@步步登高_乐). According to Gao, Shouqi’s statement contains many falsehoods and “fabricated facts.”

Ms. Gao talking to Chinese media about what really happened during the incident.

Gao says that the driver never told her anything about taking an alternative route. She also denies that Zhang called the emergency number after she had jumped out, and emphasizes that the local authorities have never issued any official statement nor made any conclusions about the matter. Shouqi has also never paid for her medical expenses, and have not released any recordings of the incident to Gao.

By Monday afternoon local time, Gao’s response was shared on Weibo over 23,000 times, receiving over 32,000 comments. The topic also reached the top trending topics on the social media platform.

The safety of female passengers making use of online car-hailing apps is a recurring topic of discussion in China, where several incidents involving Uber-like services triggered outrage among web users over the past few years.

The biggest case was the murder of a Chinese stewardess by a driver of the Didi Chuxing car-hailing app in 2018, which became one of the most discussed topics of that year. Shortly before going missing, the 21-year-old woman from Zhengzhou had texted her friend that the driver of the ride she had arranged was “acting strange.” Her body was found the next day. The driver’s body was retrieved from a river nearby.

The horrific case was followed by a second Didi murder of a 20-year-old woman in Wenzhou. The victim was on her way to a birthday party when she contacted a friend via text asking for help. She was later found to have been raped and killed in a mountainous area nearby. The 27-year-old driver was arrested. These two cases, which also brought other cases to light in which female passengers were abused by their drivers, sparked major public concerns about the safety of these online platforms.

In February of 2021, the Huolala case also made headlines in China: a 23-year-old woman named Che Shasha jumped out of the window of a moving van she rented via the ride-hailing firm Huolala when the driver, a man by the name of Zhou, had deviated from the intended route. Che, who was uncomfortable and scared, asked Zhou about the different routes multiple times, but he remained silent. When Che exited the vehicle via the passenger window, the driver reportedly did not do anything to stop her. The young woman died four days after the incident due to severe brain injury due to her fall.

These previous cases have heightened public awareness on the safety of female passengers, but some commenters also think it might have led to women being too scared when using ride-hailing apps.

Although most commenters support Ms. Gao and say that Shouqi should release the recordings to make the truth come out, there are also web users who say Gao is “delusional” and that her fears were ungrounded.

“If she really would’ve been murdered, people would say she wasn’t vigilant enough. Now, she was vigilant and people say she was being delusional. You just don’t have the empathy to understand the fear of female passengers,” one commenter writes.

Without any released recordings and no official police report, web users are still waiting for further developments in this case. If it would be up to Ms. Gao, it will soon be publicly revealed that she indeed was in danger. For now, she is seeking more media exposure so that “the bad guys will be punished for the injuries she suffered,” she told Chinese media reporters from her hospital bed.

We will update this story once more information comes out.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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