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The Silent Storm: Peng Shuai’s Weibo Post

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

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UPDATE DECEMBER 20 2021: Please see our recent article for a full translation of Peng Shuai’s post and a timeline of events.

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

UPDATE DECEMBER 20 2021: Please see our recent article for a full translation of Peng Shuai’s post and a timeline of events.

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 founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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8 Comments

8 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.

  4. Pingback: Tennis Stars Speak Out On China - Portals Index

  5. Jeremy

    December 20, 2021 at 7:01 pm

    If you actually understand Chinese, it is very obvious she was writing out of frustration of not being able to be with him. She wasn’t accusing him of sexual assault or anything remotely like that. She was in love with him 7 years ago and she still is till these day.

    This post read more like a lover’s rant than anything else.

  6. Pingback: Peng Shuai Interview Leaves Much Unanswered – China Digital Times - AI Caosuo

  7. MTMT123

    December 26, 2021 at 4:07 am

    politicising-sensationalising a clearly lover-spat just to smear china – well done, western media – how low and hideous can you go ???

  8. Pingback: Tennis Stars Talk About China - 10pro.in

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China Animals

‘Welcome Home, Molly’ – Chinese Zoo Elephant Returns to Kunming after Online Protest

One small step for animal protection in China, one giant leap for Molly the elephant.

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Following online protest and the efforts of animal activists, Molly has returned to the Kunming Zoo where she was born and where mother elephant Mopo is.

The little elephant named Molly is a big topic of discussion on Chinese social media recently.

The popular Asian elephant, born in the Kunming Zoo in 2016, was separated from her mother at the age of two in April of 2018. Molly was then transferred from Kunming Zoo to Qinyang, Jiaozuo (Henan), in exchange for another elephant. Over the past few years, fans of Molly started voicing their concerns online as the elephant was trained to do tricks and performances and to carry around tourists on her back at the Qinyang Swan Lake Ecological Garden (沁阳天鹅湖生态园), the Qinyang Hesheng Forest Zoo (沁阳和生森林动物园), the Jiaozuo Forestry Zoo (焦作森林动物园), and the Zhoukou Safari Park (周口野生动物世界).

Since the summer of 2021, more people started speaking out for Molly’s welfare when they spotted the elephant chained up and seemingly unhappy, forced to do handstands or play harmonica, with Molly’s handlers using iron hooks to coerce her into performing.

Earlier this month, Molly became a big topic on Chinese social media again due to various big accounts on Xiaohongshu and Weibo posting about the ‘Save Molly’ campaign and calling for an elephant performance ban in China (read more).

Although zookeepers denied any animal abuse and previously stated that the elephant is kept in good living conditions and that animal performances are no longer taking place, Molly’s story saw an unexpected turn this week. Thanks to the efforts of online netizens, Molly fans, and animal welfare activists, Molly was removed from Qinyang.

A popular edited image of Molly that has been shared a lot online.

On May 15, the Henan Forestry Bureau – which regulates the holding of all exotic species, including those in city zoos – announced that Molly would return to Kunming in order to provide “better living circumstances” for the elephant. A day later, on Monday, Molly left Qinyang and returned to the Kunming Zoo where she was born. In Kunming, Molly will first receive a thorough health check during the observation period.

Official announcement regarding Molly by the Henan Forestry Administration.

Many online commenters were happy to see Molly returning home. “Finally! This is great news,” many wrote, with others saying: “Please be good to her” and “Finally, after four years of hardship, Molly will be reunited with her mother.”

Besides regular Weibo accounts celebrating Molly’s return to Kunming, various Chinese state media accounts and official accounts (e.g. the Liaocheng Communist Youth League) also posted about Molly’s case and wished her a warm welcome and good wishes. One Weibo post on the matter by China News received over 76,000 likes on Monday.

Although many view the effective online ‘Save Molly’ campaign as an important milestone for animal welfare in China, some animal activists remind others that there are still other elephants in Chinese zoos who need help and better wildlife protection laws. Among them are the elephant Kamuli (卡目里) and two others who are still left in Qinyang.

For years, animal welfare activists in China and in other countries have been calling for Chinese animal protection laws. China does have wildlife protection laws, but they are often conflicting and do not apply to pets and there is no clear anti-animal abuse law.

“I’ll continue to follow this. What are the next arrangements? What is the plan for Molly and the other elephants? How will you guarantee a safe and proper living environment?”

Another Weibo user writes: “This is just a first step, there is much more to be done.”

To follow more updates regarding Molly, check out Twitter user ‘Diving Paddler’ here. We thank them for their contributions to this article.

To read more about zoos and wildlife parks causing online commotion in China, check our articles here.

By Manya Koetse

References (other sources linked to within text)

Arcus Foundation (Ed.). 2021. State of the Apes: Killing, Capture, Trade and Ape Conservation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

China Daily. 2012. “Animal Rights Groups Seek Performance Ban.” China Daily, April 16 http://www.china.org.cn/environment/2012-04/16/content_25152066.htm [Accessed May 1 2022].

Li, Peter J. 2021. Animal Welfare in China: Culture, Politics and Crisis. Sydney: Sydney University Press.

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China and Covid19

Fangcang Forever: China’s Temporary Covid19 Makeshift Hospitals To Become Permanent

China’s temporary ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are here to stay.

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A new term has been added to China’s pandemic lexicon today: Permanent Fangcang Hospital. Although China’s ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are, by definition, temporary, these healthcare facilities to isolate and treat Covid patients are now becoming a permanent feature of China’s Zero-Covid approach.

Over the past few days, Chinese authorities have emphasized the need for China’s bigger cities to build or renovate existing makeshift Covid hospitals, and turn them into permanent sites.

So-called ‘Fangcang hospitals’ (方舱医院, square cabin hospitals) are large, temporary makeshift shelter hospitals to isolate and treat Covid-19 patients. Fangcang shelter hospitals were first established in China during the Wuhan outbreak as a countermeasure to stop the spread of the virus.

January 5 2022, a Fangcang or Isolation Point with over 1000 separate isolations rooms is constructed in Baqiao District of Xi’an (Image via Renmin Shijue).

They have since become an important part of China’s management of the pandemic and the country’s Zero-Covid policy as a place to isolate and treat people who have tested positive for Covid-19, both asymptomatic and mild-to-moderate symptomatic cases. In this way, the Fangcang hospitals alleviate the pressure on (designated) hospitals, so that they have more beds for patients with serious or severe symptoms.

On May 5th, Chinese state media reported about an important top leadership meeting regarding China’s Covid-19 situation. In this meeting, the Politburo Standing Committee stressed that China would “unswervingly adhere to the general Zero-Covid policy” and that victory over the virus would come with persistence. At the meeting, chaired by Xi Jinping, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee also declared that China would fight against any words or acts that “distort, doubt, or deny” the country’s dynamic Zero-Covid policy.

Life inside one of Shanghai’s Fangcang, photo via UDN.com.

Following the meeting, there have been multiple official reports and statements that provide a peek into China’s ‘zero Covid’ future.

On May 13, China’s National Health Commission called on all provinces to build or renovate city-level Fangcang hospitals, and to make sure they are equipped with electricity, ventilation systems, medical appliances, toilets, and washing facilities (Weibo hashtag ##以地级市为单位建设或者改造方舱医院#).

On May 16, the term ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital’ (Weibo hashtag #永久性方舱医院) became a trending topic on Weibo after Ma Xiaowei (马晓伟), Minister of China’s National Health Commission, introduced the term in Qiushi (求是), the leading official theoretical journal of the Chinese Communist Party.

The term is new and is somewhat contradictory as a concept, since ‘Fangcang hospitals’ are actually defined by their temporary nature.

Ma Xiaowei stressed the need for Chinese bigger cities to be ready for the next stage of China’s Covid control. This also includes the need for some central ‘Fangcang’ makeshift hospitals to become permanent ones.

In order to ‘normalize’ the control and monitoring that comes with living in Zero-Covid society, Chinese provincial capitals and bigger cities (more than ten million inhabitants) should do more to improve Covid testing capacities and procedures. Ma proposes that there should be nucleic acid sample collection points across the city within a 15-minute walking distance radius, and testing frequency should be increased to maximize efficient control and prevention.

Cities should be prepared to take in patients for isolation and/or treatment at designated hospitals, centralized isolation sites, and the permanent Fangcang hospitals. The recent Covid outbreak in Shanghai showed that local authorities were unprepared to deal with the outbreak, and sites that were used as Fangcang hospitals often lacked proper facilities, leading to chaotic scenes.

A Fangcang Isolation Center in Quanzhou, March 2022, via People’s Daily.

The hashtag “Permanent Fangcang Hospitals” received over 140 million views on Weibo on Monday.

One of the Weibo threads by state media reporting on the Permanent Fangcang hospitals and the publication by Ma Xiaowei received nearly 2000 comments, yet the comment section only displayed three comments praising the newly announced measures, leaving out the other 1987 comments.

Elsewhere on Weibo, people shared their views on the Permanent Fangcang Hospitals, and most were not very positive – most commenters shared their worries about China’s Covid situation about the stringent measures being a never-ending story.

“We’re normalizing nucleic acid test, we’re introducing permanent fangcang hospitals, [but] why isn’t the third Covid vaccination coming through?” one person wondered.

“If there was still a little bit of passion inside me, it was just killed by reading these words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital,'” another commenter writes, with one Weibo user adding: “I feel desperate hearing the words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital.'”

“Building permanent Fangcang? Why? Why don’t you use the resources you’re now spending on normalizing testing to create more hospital beds, more medical staff and more medications?”

Another commenter wrote: “China itself is one giant permanent Fangcang hospital.”

“The forever Fangcang are being built,” one Weibo user from Guangdong writes: “This will never end. We’ll be locked up like birds in a cage for our entire life.”

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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Featured image via user tongtong [nickname] Weibo.com.

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.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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