Peng Shuai allegation: Who is Zhang Gaoli, the former experience of China’s Winter season Olympics preparations

But now, three many years into his retirement and much less than three months prior to the Olympics, Zhang has uncovered himself at the centre of an explosive #MeToo scandal that has prompted world wide uproar — amplifying phone calls for a boycott of the Games that he assisted organize.

“Why did you have to come again to me, took me to your household to force me to have sexual intercourse with you?” Peng alleged in a given that-deleted social media publish dated November 2.

“I know that for another person of your eminence, Vice Leading Zhang Gaoli, you stated you were not afraid. But even if it is really just me, like an egg hitting the stone, a moth traveling into flames, courting self-destruction, I would notify the fact about us,” she wrote.

Chinese authorities rushed to muffle Peng with blanket censorship. But as months went by, the women’s tennis entire world began to demand from customers solutions as to Peng’s whereabouts — as well as a total investigation into her allegations towards Zhang.
Women's tennis is challenging the Chinese government -- and it shows no sign of backing down
Amid growing global concerns about her protection and very well-staying, individuals performing for Chinese governing administration-managed media and the state sporting activities program produced a stream of “evidence of daily life” photos and movies of Peng.
Bach, the IOC president who has been photographed with Zhang on at minimum just one celebration, held a movie call with Peng underneath the near enjoy of a Chinese sports formal, in the course of which the three-time Olympian insisted she is “protected and well” and preferred to have her “privacy respected.”

But Beijing has averted any point out of Peng’s sexual assault allegations, with censors blocking all CNN broadcasts on this tale in the country.

All the when, Zhang has remained completely outdoors of general public watch, and he has not issued any response to the accusation.

Given that retirement, Zhang has held a small profile and faded from general public daily life, and there is no posted facts relating to his present-day whereabouts. CNN’s recurring requests for comment from China’s Condition Council Data Business office — which handles press inquiries on behalf of the central federal government — have gone unanswered.

Who is Zhang Gaoli?

In general public, Zhang experienced slice a dull, somewhat unremarkable figure — even by the expectations of the Communist Party, in which senior officials ordinarily follow a restricted script although on formal enterprise and continue to be out of the spotlight in non-public.

In pictures and on state television, he was seldom witnessed putting on any expression, and generally sported impeccable slicked-back again, jet-black hair — a hairstyle ordinarily favored by senior Chinese officers.

Even soon after he formally turned a person of China’s seven most potent men, Zhang seldom stood out among the his colleagues on the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, the place he served along with President Xi Jinping from 2012 to 2017.

In accordance to a 2013 point out media profile, Zhang liked tennis, reading through and taking part in Chinese chess in his spare time.

But his lower-critical individuality shouldn’t disguise the incredible electricity he wielded. He was in charge of the economic system, the electricity sector and Xi’s signature Belt and Highway initiative — as properly as preparations for the Beijing Winter Olympics.

“There was nothing superb about him. He is a normal technocrat trained and cultivated by the Chinese Communist Get together system,” claimed Deng Yuwen, a previous editor of an formal bash journal who now lives in the United States.

“He had no notable achievements, nor was he involved in certain scandals — he had been a bland figure with no any controversy.”

Zhang Gaoli (L) stands with the other six members of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 15, 2012.Zhang Gaoli (L) stands with the other six members of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 15, 2012.

Compared with Xi, who was born a “princeling” — a youngster of communist groundbreaking heroes — which gave him inherent position and status within just the celebration, Zhang arrived from a modest qualifications.

Born in 1946 into a farmer’s loved ones in a little seaside village in the southeastern province of Fujian, Zhang grew up impoverished. His father died just before he turned 3 years old, and he helped his mom with farm work and fishing from a young age, in accordance to point out media stories.

But Zhang examined really hard and was admitted to the economics office of Xiamen University, a prestigious institution in his residence province. When he graduated, China was in the midst of the havoc wrought by the Cultural Revolution, a decade of political and social turmoil unleashed by late Chairman Mao Zedong in 1966.

Zhang was assigned a lowly task in a state-owned oil corporation in the neighboring province of Guangdong, carrying bags of cement from the warehouse. According to Chinese point out media, it was though operating there that he achieved Kang Jie, a colleague who would develop into his spouse, however the report did not provide further more facts of their partnership. Zhang inevitably rose by means of the ranks to develop into the party manager of the oil corporation, and begun his political career from there.

In the ensuing 3 decades, Zhang continued his rise. In the 1990s, he was put in charge of economic setting up for Guangdong, a pioneer for China’s financial reforms. In Guangdong, he also had a quick stint as the party main of Shenzhen, house to a unique financial zone established up by late paramount chief Deng Xiaoping and 1 of China’s swiftest developing metropolitan areas at the time.

Right after the change of the century, Zhang was transferred to Shandong, the third largest provincial financial system of China, before getting the social gathering main of Tianjin, an critical port city in the vicinity of Beijing, in 2007.

Zhang Gaoli, then-Communist Party Secretary of Tianjin, attends a panel discussion of the Tianjin delegation during the 18th Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 9, 2012. Zhang Gaoli, then-Communist Party Secretary of Tianjin, attends a panel discussion of the Tianjin delegation during the 18th Party Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 9, 2012.

What are the allegations?

It was in Tianjin that Zhang is alleged to have begun a sexual connection with Peng, according to the tennis star’s social media post. Peng claimed in the publish that she first had intercourse with Zhang more than 10 years ago, however she did not demonstrate the circumstances.

In 2012, when Xi took the helm of the social gathering, Zhang was promoted to the Politburo Standing Committee in Beijing. Peng alleges he broke off contact with her soon after.

Then, the write-up alleges, just one morning about a few years back following Zhang had retired, Peng was abruptly invited by him to play tennis in Beijing. Afterward, she wrote, Zhang and his wife brought Peng again to their property, where Peng claims she was pressured into having intercourse with Zhang.

“That afternoon I did not agree at first and was crying the complete time,” Peng wrote. Then, at meal with Zhang and his wife, Zhang attempted to talk her into it, in accordance to the post.

“You reported that the universe was so huge that the earth was no far more than a grain of sand in comparison, and that we human beings were even much less than that. You saved conversing, trying to persuade me to allow go of my ‘mental baggage,'” Peng alleges in the submit.

She alleges she eventually relented, out of panic and dread, and with her “inner thoughts” for Zhang from their time in Tianjin, in accordance to the post.

Chinese tennis star accuses former top Communist Party leader of sexual assault, triggering blanket censorshipChinese tennis star accuses former top Communist Party leader of sexual assault, triggering blanket censorship

Peng explained she then entered an extramarital relationship with Zhang, but she suffered “way too a great deal injustice and insults.” She claimed they got into a quarrel in late October, and Zhang refused to meet her and disappeared.

“I couldn’t describe how disgusted I was, and how many instances I asked myself am I nonetheless a human? I sense like a strolling corpse. Every single working day I was acting, which human being is the serious me?” wrote Peng. CNN could not independently validate the authenticity of the far more than 1,600-term article.

At a information meeting Tuesday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian declined to comment on whether the Chinese government will launch an investigation into Peng’s sexual assault allegations against Zhang. He recurring prior reviews produced to reporters, saying Peng’s predicament “was not a diplomatic situation.”

He added that the govt hoped “destructive speculation” about Peng’s effectively-getting and whereabouts would end, and that her situation ought to not be politicized.

Peng’s unique article sent shock waves by means of Chinese social media, and was deleted within just 30 minutes. Due to the fact then, Chinese censors have been diligently scrubbing her name and even the vaguest references to her allegations from the world wide web.

More than the past couple times, when folks connected to point out media pushed the narrative that Peng was nicely on intercontinental social media platforms blocked in China, the tennis star stays lacking in the country’s domestic media and on the internet sphere.
Zhang, meanwhile, has remained silent. His very last community appearance was on July 1, at a grand ceremony celebrating the 100th founding anniversary of the bash in central Beijing. The septuagenarian was observed standing on prime of the Gate of Heavenly Peace among the a row of retired leaders.
Peng Shuai during her first round singles match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia on Jan. 21, 2020. Peng Shuai during her first round singles match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia on Jan. 21, 2020.

Will there be an investigation?

The Women’s Tennis Association, as properly as some of the most significant names in tennis and the United Nations have referred to as for a full, honest and clear investigation into Peng’s allegations against Zhang.

But so considerably, there has been no indicator an investigation is underway.

Chinese authorities have not acknowledged Peng’s accusation, and it stays unclear if Peng has claimed her allegations to the law enforcement. Peng wrote in the write-up that she did not have any evidence, and “it was simply just difficult to have proof” due to the fact Zhang was generally fearful that she would file things.

Ling Li, an pro on Chinese politics and law at the University of Vienna, mentioned if Peng’s allegations were being correct, Zhang’s extramarital partnership would no question be regarded as “poor” and a violation of the “lifestyle willpower” of the celebration.

According to the guidelines of the Central Commission for Self-discipline Inspection, the party’s a great deal-feared disciplinary watchdog, the sanction for these kinds of an offense ranges from remonstration to expulsion from the social gathering, dependent how substantially harm the celebration has experienced from the offense, Li explained.

“Having explained that, there has been no occasion official of (Zhang’s) rank who has been expelled from the party centered on a life style offense on your own. And an allegation of sexual misconduct does not automatically trigger an anti-corruption investigation,” she included.

“If earlier practice is any tutorial, to launch an anti-corruption investigation from a member of the Politburo or earlier mentioned, the conclusion requires to be made by the Politburo Standing Committee collectively.”

Xi’s sweeping anti-corruption marketing campaign has formerly targeted senior officials — including a former Politburo Standing Committee member, but they were being all initiated by the party by itself. In China, social gathering leaders of Zhang’s rank are past reproach from users of the standard public, and it would be almost unthinkable that a sexual assault allegation could convey down a prime leader.

Deng, the previous bash journal editor, mentioned it is just about difficult for the Communist Social gathering to cave in to global tension to carry out a clear investigation into Zhang and release the benefits to the planet.

Even though Zhang is not viewed as an ally of Xi’s (alternatively, he is regarded as to be in the orbit of former President Jiang Zemin and his so-known as Shanghai faction), publicly punishing a previous elite formal who worked so intently with Xi for alleged sexual misconduct would possible be thought of a major humiliation not only for the party’s picture, but also to Xi himself — particularly given that Xi has doubled down tough on implementing celebration self-control.

Even though the personal life of senior officials continue to be a closely guarded top secret, allegations of extramarital affairs among political elites are commonplace — and have long been fodder for public gossip.

Below Xi, the party has created an illustration of disgraced officials, such as these who have abused their electrical power for sex. In recent yrs, it has become typical for salacious accounts of officials’ tangled personal life to be printed in state media following their removing from business office on corruption prices.

“As soon as he arrived to power, Xi underscored that officers need to be honest and upright, and act as moral role types for modern society. He has demanded Communist Celebration customers to preserve their (ideological) purity,” Deng said. “While indiscretion in private life is however prevalent between officials, it is a various make a difference when it is thrust into the community watch.”

And simply because of that, Deng suggests he believes the bash has probable currently quietly introduced an inside investigation into Peng’s allegations. But neither the system nor the outcome of the probe is very likely be announced externally, he reported.

“The previous factor they want to do is to give the intercontinental community an perception that they’ve been pressured into undertaking it,” Deng mentioned.

Now, the ball is in the court docket of the worldwide athletics community — irrespective of whether they’re going to be contented by the “evidence of daily life” movies of Peng, or if they will carry on to press for a comprehensive investigation into her allegations.

As for Zhang, it truly is possible he would hardly ever have anticipated that right after dedicating a lot of the final yrs of his career to preparations for the Winter Olympics, allegations from him would a single day gas developing phone calls for a boycott of the Game titles.

“But if far more and more nations around the world be a part of the Olympic boycott and the pressure results in being way too acute, we are not able to solely exclude the risk — having said that small — that (the celebration) may possibly throw Zhang underneath the bus,” explained Deng.

“This was originally a scandal in opposition to Zhang, but the (party’s) fetish for energy has blunted its reaction, turning a private scandal into a nationwide scandal.”

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