Peng Shuai’s revelation that she was sexually harassed by an unnamed former coach has caused controversy in China, as well as a spate of fake news.
The 30-year-old Chinese tennis player, who qualified for this week’s Sony Open, spoke to E!: newspaper on Friday, shortly after she won her second-round match against her childhood idol, Venus Williams. “Two years ago, I was a few years away from my prime. I was going through a bad phase with my coach and things happened. Not rape, but he said he had a thing for me,” Peng said. “There was no physical contact, but it was something I needed to say out loud.”
She added: “I didn’t tell anyone. But I couldn’t put it off any longer.”
Some versions of the story, which are not officially known, suggest that a priest performed an exorcism on Peng and that she now believes her coach sexually assaulted her.
All the details of Peng’s case have still to be confirmed by those directly involved, and the court-ordered statements by the coach — which have not been released to the public — will be presented to a court in Dalian on Wednesday. The world No. 55 has asked for the case to be moved to mainland China, where she says she fears for her safety.
There is a joke going around Chinese social media that Peng, known for her polite demeanor and fan-friendly comments, was “too nice for him.”
In China, a culture obsessed with almost-instant gossip, the reported news has been eclipsed by other news. There has been a flurry of posts on Chinese social media claiming that Peng’s statement is all made up. Many of the posts consist of headlines of her interview with E!: — which normally report real news — with comment threads and a photo of Peng next to a pyramid or the word “Goetze,” which translates as literally and metaphorically “friend.”
Others have written that Peng says her former coach wrote fan letters in the style of five-year-old children: “Please help me make you happy.”
Meanwhile, Chinese netizens have asked for the media to join them in angering not only Peng, but the entire male population of the country.
Peng’s comments come at a time when women’s issues and celebrities have come under particularly intense criticism, most notably the “Me Too” movement, which has started to sweep across China — even leading to many people being detained for spreading rumors online.
One of the most recent examples of the movement was the response from a teenage girl to a teenage boy’s remark about Peng. The incident was posted on internet forums and the girl responded by publicly stating that she supports Peng.
When the boy then replied that her response was rude, she replied to him that if he was not a court journalist, he should be ashamed of himself for his low standards.
Read the full story at The Washington Post
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