China’s high-profile disappearances.

China's Shuai Peng serves the ball to France's Caroline Garcia during their second round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium,China's Shuai Peng serves the ball to France's Caroline Garcia during their second round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium,

The disappearence of tennis star Peng Shuai in China following her accusation of sexual assault against a former top Communist Party official has shined a spotlight on similar cases involving political dissidents, entertainers, business leaders and others who have run afoul of the authorities.

A look at those cases and the background on such actions.
Despite an outcry in the tennis world and global media, Chinese officials have not directly addressed 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 vice premier and member of the party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee.

Peng, 35, is a former No. 1-ranked player in women’s doubles who won titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014. She also participated in three Olympics, making her disappearance all the more prominent with Beijing set to host the Winter Games starting Feb. 4.

Peng wrote in a lengthy social media post on Nov. 2 that Zhang had forced her to have sex three years ago, despite her repeated refusals. The post was quickly deleted from her verified account on Weibo, a leading Chinese social media platform, but screenshots of the explosive accusation quickly spread across China’s internet.

China says it is a nation “ruled by law,” but the Communist Party ultimately holds sway and there are large gray areas of enforcement. Control over the press and social media allows authorities to keep word of disappearances quiet and to stonewall critics, although such news often gradually surfaces through underground and foreign sources.

Among Chinese celebrities in the entertainment world, tangling with the authorities can be a career killer. For business leaders, it can mean a loss of status, market access and possible incarceration. With political dissidents, it often means disappearance into the vast security state, without access to family or legal recourse.

Notable people who have dropped from sight under circumstances that remain unclear include business leader Jack Ma and famous actress Fan Bingbing.

Ma, China’s most prominent entrepreneur and the founder of Alibaba Group, the world’s biggest e-commerce company, stopped appearing in public after he criticized regulators as being too conservative in an October 2020 speech.

Days later, the government ordered Ma’s Ant Group, a financial service that grew out of Alibaba’s online payments business, to suspend a planned stock market debut in Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Rumors on social media questioned whether Ma had been detained.

Friends of Ma reportedly said he wasn’t detained but decided to stay quiet following criticism of his comments. Ma reappeared two months later in a January 2020 video released by Alibaba but made no mention of his disappearance.

Fan disappeared for three months before news emerged that tax authorities had ordered her and companies she represented to pay taxes and penalties totaling $130 million.

People can drop off the map if they are linked to disputes with the politically well-connected involving business and reputation.

 

 

 

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