In November, Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai accused former Vice Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli of forcing a sexual relationship with her three years ago. His message, posted on a social network, was quickly censored and The 35-year-old athlete disappeared from the radar for three weeks.
This week he reappeared as mysteriously as he had disappeared, and his story is different now: “I want to highlight a very important point: I never said or wrote anything accusing someone of sexually assaulting me. I would like to emphasize this point very clearly. “
The statements, made in dialogue with Liane zaobao, a Singapore newspaper, shocked the world, and raised suspicions about what exactly it was that caused the young woman to recant. But the truth is that the mysterious disappearance and his return is a typical move by the Chinese regime to subdue celebrities who dare to rebel.
The case of Peng Shuai, joins that of the actress of X Men Fan bingbing and the founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, symbols of the power of Beijing and its reach even in the western Meccas of Hollywood and Wall Street. But these figures too generated discomfort and defied the regime. They disappeared overnight and reappeared with a different speech, China’s favorite strategy for dealing with the rebellion.
Either there is regret, or the disappearance is permanent.
Fan Bingbing: no one can escape the scrutiny of the regime
Fan bingbing, perhaps the most famous actress in China for her participation in the film X-Men: Days of Future Past, was the first famous victim of the National Supervision Commission (CNS), a formally autonomous entity ordered by Xi Jinping that has the power to hold suspects incommunicado for six months, without the right to any type of defense and without even notifying his family.
In June 2018 it faded. There was no trace of her on social media and her acquaintances knew nothing. In early October, the news agency Xinhua reported that she had been arrested – without saying where – for a tax debt amounting to $ 130 million. Then I return with a humiliating apology: “I have suffered pain and torment like never before in my life. […] Without the excellent policies of the Party and the country, without the affection of the people, there would be no Fan Bingbing ”.
China’s message is that “no one is too high, no one is high, no one can escape the scrutiny of the government,” he had told Business Insider Roderic Wye, a former diplomat at the British embassy in Beijing.
Jack Ma: an “awkward” speech and months of silence
The authorities began to put pressure on the businesses of Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, since the businessman, one of the richest men in China, gave a speech in late October 2020 that upset them.
Warning that his ideas could be “immature, inaccurate, or even laughable,” he gave his lengthy speech to “the cream of China’s financial, regulatory and political establishment,” according to Reuters, a text in which the quotes from Chinese President Xi Jinping were not lacking.
Everything was going well until in a moment, Ma “began to invite the public to consider the need to reform the country’s financial system”, as described Time, and “crossed a limit.” As interpreted, it indirectly accused the authorities of stifling innovation.
There was applause. But on November 2, the authorities summoned Ma to ask him some questions. On November 3, the authorization for Ant Financial to go public was withdrawn. At the end of December, the restructuring of Ant Group was ordered, which severely affected its valuation.
Finally, on January 1, Ma did not attend the final of the reality show. Africa’s Business Heroes, which he himself created. Since she made no public appearances since November 2, the explanation that an Alibaba spokeswoman gave to Reuters on Ma’s replacement by an Alibaba executive: “It was due to an overlap of commitments.”
This former English teacher turned billionaire considered himself an untouchable in China. He is a member of the PCC, he used to be seen regularly together with the country’s leaders and in 2017 he served as an unofficial ambassador in a meeting with Donald Trump. He is also very popular, has played rock concerts and participated in a kung fu movie.
The billionaire reappeared in january during a virtual meeting with rural teachers after months without knowing his whereabouts.
The assault on Ma’s corporate empire encapsulates a broader campaign to curb a generation of Chinese tech giants that Beijing now considers to be too controlling about the second largest economy in the world.
Zhao Wei: as if it never existed
It is not strange that figures like Ma, Shuai and Bingbing return to the light. His fame works in a way as a protective shield. People ask questions and there is no end to speculation.
Other cases are even more mysterious.
One of the best known cases is that of the actress Zhao Wei, who would have disappeared without a trace, as if he had never existed. In addition to its non-existence, there was no record of it on the web, no photos, information, movies, nothing.
When his fans realized the above and in order to alert on the subject, they were silenced and Internet publications that mentioned his name were censored in China. The reason? It is believed that for the Chinese regime the actress encouraged the vulgar, a promiscuous lifestyle, lacking Chinese traditions.
Although no reason was given for his disappearance, Chinese state media said she was “surrounded by lawsuits” and noted that in 2017 she was banned from trading on China’s stock markets for “unspecified market violations.”
On August 28, 2021, it was reported that Zhao had left China for France and was reportedly seen at a Bordeaux airport. In a now-deleted Instagram post from Aug. 29, Zhao claimed he was in Beijing, denying he was in France.
Ren Zhiqiang: from criticism to disgrace
Another member of China’s elite who disappeared is Ren zhiqiang, former president of the real estate giant Huayuan.
One of the most powerful men in the real estate sector and with previous ties to the top of power, In 2020 he questioned the management that Jinping made of the epidemic born in Wuhan and the lack of early warnings that his government issued to prevent its international expansion. He called him a “clown” and he was disappeared.
Later, he was expelled from the Communist Party of China. He reappeared and was sentenced to 18 years in prison and a 4.2 million yuan ($ 620,000) fine for “corruption.”
The truth is that, in China, this is the norm, not the exception.
“Proximity to the highest levels of power – fame, money, power, a Nobel Peace Prize – doesn’t buy you any additional protection,” he had told Business Insider Sophie Richardson, Human Rights Watch director for China last month.
“This case has exposed to another large global audience the truly arbitrary nature of the power wielded by the Chinese government and party,” he said, referring to Peng. “This happens all the time.”
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From Jack Ma to Peng Shuai: The Chinese Regime’s Disappearing and Headwashing Tactic with Celebrities Who Defy It