What drives the high-profile disappearances in China
BEIJING (AP) – The disappearance of tennis star Peng Shuai in China following his sexual assault charge against a former senior Communist Party official has shed light on similar cases involving political dissidents, artists, business leaders and others who have violated the authorities.
A look at these cases and the context of these actions.
WHAT HAPPENED TO PENG SHUAI?
Despite an outcry in the tennis world and global media, Chinese officials did not directly respond to the accusation posted online by Grand Slam doubles champion Peng more than two weeks ago. Peng said she was sexually assaulted by Zhang Gaoli, a former deputy prime minister and member of the party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee.
Peng, 35, is a former No. 1 women’s doubles player who won titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and Roland Garros in 2014. She has also appeared in three Olympics, making her demise all the more significant with Beijing, which should host the Winter Games from February 4.
Peng wrote in a lengthy social media post on Nov. 2 that Zhang forced her to have sex three years ago, despite her repeated refusals. The post was quickly deleted from his verified account on Weibo, one of China’s major social media platforms, but screenshots of the explosive charge quickly spread across the internet in China.
WHY ARE PEOPLE DISAPPEARING IN CHINA?
China says it is a nation “ruled by law,” but the Communist Party ultimately wins and there are large gray areas of enforcement. Control of the press and social media allows authorities to remain silent about disappearances and block criticism, although these news often gradually surface through underground and foreign sources.
Among Chinese celebrities in the entertainment world, falling out with the authorities can be a career killer. For business leaders, this can mean loss of status, market access and possible imprisonment. Along with political dissidents, this often means disappearance into the vast state of security, with no access to family or legal recourse.
Even before taking power in 1949, the Communist Party suffered many rounds of vicious infighting in which those on the losing side were eliminated without due process. The Cultural Revolution of 1966-76 saw politicians, educators and musicians locked up for years without charge, often in solitary confinement.
Today, the party’s Central Disciplinary Commission deals with most of the major charges against senior officials, which can disappear for months before a terse statement is issued saying they are being prosecuted. an investigation for “serious violations of rules and regulations”. announced, with little or no details of the charges or evidence against them.
WHICH FAMOUS PEOPLE HAVE BEEN MISSED?
Some notable people who have gone out of sight under circumstances that remain unclear include business leader Jack Ma and famous actress Fan Bingbing.
Ma, China’s largest entrepreneur and founder of Alibaba Group, the world’s largest e-commerce company, has stopped appearing in public after criticizing regulators for being too conservative in an October 2020 speech.
Days later, the government ordered Ma’s Ant Group, a financial service spun off from Alibaba’s online payments business, to suspend its Hong Kong and Shanghai stock exchange debuts.
Rumors on social media asked if Ma had been detained. Friends of Ma reportedly said he had not been detained but decided to remain silent following criticism of his comments. Ma reappeared two months later in a January 2020 video posted by Alibaba but made no mention of her disappearance.
Fan disappeared for three months before news broke that tax authorities had ordered her and the companies she represented to pay taxes and penalties totaling $ 130 million.
People can leave the map if they are linked to disputes with politically well-connected people involving business and reputation.
Businesswoman Duan Weihong disappeared in 2017 and her husband, Desmond Shum, said he had not heard from her for four years until he was preparing to publish a book on corruption. among the Chinese elites. Shum told Time magazine his wife begged him on a phone call not to publish his book “Red Roulette”.
Duan, also known as Whitney Duan, was quoted by The New York Times in a 2012 series of articles on the family wealth of then Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, number 2 Chinese. It is not known exactly what motivated his disappearance.
Real estate mogul Ren Zhiqiang disappeared from public view in March 2020 after criticizing President Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Ren was sentenced later that year to 18 years in prison for corruption.
WHAT OTHER TYPES OF PEOPLE ARE DISAPPEARING?
In a rare case that has come to light, Swedish citizen Gui Minhai went missing in 2015, when he was allegedly abducted by Chinese agents from his seaside home in Thailand.
He and four other people who worked for the same Hong Kong company that published books criticizing the Communist Party all disappeared around the same time and found themselves months later in custody in mainland China.
A court in eastern China later sentenced him to 10 years in prison for “illegally providing information abroad.”
China has also ripped off foreigners.
Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arrested in China in December 2018, shortly after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, in connection with a US extradition request. China delayed announcing their detentions for days, then denied the arrests were related. The two were released in September after Meng was allowed to return to China.
Even one scientist, gene editing researcher He Jiankui, disappeared from public view for nearly a year after announcing his controversial research at a conference in Hong Kong. He was ultimately found guilty of practicing medicine without a license in December 2019.
Accompanying the news of Peng’s disappearance, the wife of the former Interpol chairman, who was arrested on a return trip to China in September 2018, told The Associated Press that she and his lawyers had not been able to contact him since that date.
State media reported that Meng Hongwei admitted to accepting bribes, but Grace Meng said her husband was the victim of a political vendetta.