clearn.png
Wednesday January 19th, 2022 8:20PM

EXPLAINER: What drives high-profile disappearances in China

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

BEIJING (AP) — The disappearance 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.

___

WHAT HAPPENED TO PENG SHUAI?

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.

___

WHY DO PEOPLE DISAPPEAR IN CHINA?

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.

Even before taking power in 1949, the Communist Party underwent numerous rounds of vicious internecine struggles during which those on the losing side were disposed of without due process. The 1966-76 Cultural Revolution saw politicians, educators and musicians locked up for years without charge, often in solitary confinement.

Today, the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection handles most major charges against ranking officials, who may drop out of sight for months before a terse statement is issued saying they are under investigation for “severe violations of rules and regulations." Heavy sentences are later announced, with little or no details given about the charges or the evidence brought against them.

___

WHAT FAMOUS PEOPLE HAVE GONE MISSING?

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.

Businesswoman Duan Weihong disappeared in 2017 and her husband, Desmond Shum, said he didn’t hear from her for four years until he was preparing to publish a book about corruption among Chinese elites. Shum told Time magazine his wife begged him in a phone call not to publish his book, “Red Roulette.”

Duan, also known as Whitney Duan, was cited by The New York Times in a 2012 series of articles about the family wealth of then-Premier Wen Jiabao, China’s No. 2 leader. It remains unclear what exactly prompted her disappearance.

A 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 on corruption charges.

___

WHAT OTHER KINDS OF PEOPLE DISAPPEAR?

In a rare case that appeared in the open, Swedish citizen Gui Minhai disappeared in 2015, when he was believed to have been abducted by Chinese agents from his seaside home in Thailand.

He and four others who worked for the same Hong Kong company that published books critical of the Communist Party all went missing at about the same time and turned up months later in police custody in mainland China.

A court in eastern China later sentenced him to 10 years in prison for “illegally providing intelligence overseas.”

China has also snatched some foreigners.

Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were detained in China in December 2018, shortly after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, on a U.S. extradition request. China delayed announcing their detentions for days, then denied that the arrests were linked. The two were released in September after Meng was allowed to return to China.

Even a scientist, gene-editing researcher He Jiankui, disappeared from public view for almost a year after announcing his controversial research at a conference in Hong Kong. He was eventually convicted of practicing medicine without a license in December 2019.

Accompanying the news of Peng's disappearance, the wife of the former president of Interpol, who was taken into custody on a trip back to China in September 2018, told The Associated Press that she and her lawyers have been unable to contact him since that date.

State media reported that Meng Hongwei admitted taking bribes, but Grace Meng said her husband was the victim of a political vendetta.

The disappeared also include large numbers of Uyghurs and members of other predominately Muslim minority groups who have been targeted in what the government calls a campaign against extremism, separatism and terrorism.

Following attacks on government and civilian targets, more than 1 million men and women were forced into prison-like political re-education camps officially described as de-radicalization bases and job training centers.

___

This story corrects when Ma reappeared in a video.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Tennis, AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP World News, AP Entertainment, APOnline Celebrity News, AP Sports - Women's Tennis
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
EXPLAINER: What drives high-profile disappearances in China
The disappearance of tennis star Peng Shuai in China following her accusations 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 ran afoul of the authorities
6:12AM ( 24 minutes ago )
China says 'not aware' of tennis player Peng Shuai issue
China's Foreign Ministry is sticking to its line that it isn't aware of the controversy surrounding tennis professional Peng Shuai, who disappeared after accusing a former top official of sexually assaulting her
5:54AM ( 41 minutes ago )
Europe's central banker: Not adding to pinch with rate hike
The head of the European Central Bank is doubling down on the message that it's no time to raise interest rates
5:52AM ( 44 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Falcons' slumping offense handed first shutout in 6 years
Atlanta’s first shutout loss in six years was only the capper on a miserable week for the Falcons’ offense
1:09AM ( 5 hours ago )
Swaggering Pats stifle Falcons 25-0 for 5th straight victory
Mac Jones threw a 19-yard scoring pass to Nelson Agholor for the game’s only offensive touchdown and the New England defense took care of the rest
12:31AM ( 6 hours ago )
Patriots stifle Falcons 25-0 for 5th straight victory
Mac Jones threw a 19-yard scoring pass to Nelson Agholor for the game’s only offensive touchdown and the New England defense took care of the rest
11:20PM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Sports
Barty finishes year as WTA's No. 1 for 3rd consecutive time
Wimbledon champion Ash Barty has finished No. 1 in the WTA singles rankings for the third consecutive season
11:24AM ( 19 hours ago )
Muguruza wins WTA Finals for first time, beating Kontaveit
Garbiñe Muguruza has defeated Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 7-5 to win the WTA Finals for the first time
8:28AM ( 22 hours ago )
China silent on missing tennis star, despite global pressure
An email purportedly from a Chinese professional tennis player that a Chinese state media outlet posted on Twitter has increased concerns about her safety as the sport’s biggest stars and others abroad call for information about her well-being and whereabouts
7:29AM ( 23 hours ago )
AP Online Tennis
Spain faces its past in mass graves bill. Will it be enough?
For decades, family members of the tens of thousands victims of Francisco Franco's brutal regime in Spain have had little help from central authorities to recover their loved ones from the country's hundreds of mass graves
3:43AM ( 2 hours ago )
Scientists mystified, wary, as Africa avoids COVID disaster
When the coronavirus first emerged last year, health officials feared the pandemic would sweep across Africa, killing millions and destroying the continent’s fragile health systems
2:49AM ( 3 hours ago )
Hungary opposition leader vows to restore western alliances
An independent conservative candidate for prime minister in Hungary is vowing to restore western alliances he says have frayed under the leadership of right-wing leader Viktor Orban
2:38AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP National News
Rittenhouse jury to return for 4th day of deliberations
The jury at Kyle Rittenhouse’s murder trial was to return Friday for a fourth day of deliberations, after a quiet day behind closed doors that ended with one juror asking if she could take home the jury instructions
11:58PM ( 6 hours ago )
India to repeal controversial farm laws that led to protests
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said his government will withdraw the controversial farm laws that prompted year-long protests from tens of thousands of farmers who said the laws will shatter their livelihoods
11:30PM ( 7 hours ago )
Biden praises Canada, Mexico as leaders discuss strains
President Joe Biden has joined with the leaders of Canada and Mexico to revive what used to be a North American tradition before the Trump presidency
10:42PM ( 7 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
Detective: 'Tiger King' star won't talk about missing spouse
A detective in Florida investigating the disappearance of Carole Baskin’s second husband says that the “Tiger King” star has three times refused requests for interviews
6:44PM ( 11 hours ago )
Hamilton: F1 'duty bound' to raise awareness of human rights
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton says Formula One is “duty bound” to raise awareness of human rights issues as the series closes its season in the Middle East
6:25PM ( 12 hours ago )
Slain rapper Young Dolph left a lasting legacy in Memphis
Two days before he was gunned down while buying cookies at his favorite bakery in Memphis, Tennessee, rapper Young Dolph visited a cancer center where a relative had received treatment
5:22PM ( 13 hours ago )
AP Entertainment
Police in Memphis hunt for suspects in Young Dolph's killing
Police are scouring the city of Memphis, Tennessee, as they search for suspects in the killing of influential rapper Young Dolph at a popular local cookie shop
11:05AM ( 19 hours ago )
Kardashian West helps fly Afghan women soccer players to UK
Members of Afghanistan’s women’s youth development soccer team have arrived in Britain after being flown from Pakistan with the help of a New York rabbi, a U.K. soccer club and Kim Kardashian West
7:45AM ( 22 hours ago )
EXPLAINER: Doubts raised as execution nears for Julius Jones
The fate of Julius Jones rests with Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt
9:35PM ( 1 day ago )
APOnline Celebrity News
New this week: Will Smith, 'Tick, Tick... Boom!' and Adele
This week’s new entertainment releases include a much-anticipated album from Adele, a documentary about Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction during the 2004 Super Bowl half-time show and Will Smith playing father and tennis guru to Venus and Serena Williams
12:10PM ( 3 days ago )
Russia beats Switzerland 2-0 to win Billie Jean King Cup
Russia has won both singles matches to defeat Switzerland 2-0 in the final of the Billie Jean King Cup to claim the trophy for the fifth time
4:43PM ( 1 week ago )
Kasatkina gives Russia 1-0 lead in BJK Cup final
Daria Kasatkina has given Russia a 1-0 lead over Switzerland in the final of the Billie Jean King Cup with a 6-2, 6-4 victory against Jil Teichmann
1:03PM ( 1 week ago )
AP Sports - Women's Tennis
In hourslong rant, GOP's 'angry' McCarthy stalls Biden bill
Republican leader Kevin McCarthy seized control of the House floor for more than eight hours overnight, preempting passage of President Joe Biden’s big domestic policy bill with a rambling speech full of vitriol
6:30AM ( 6 minutes ago )
House moves toward OK of Dems' sweeping social, climate bill
Democrats have brushed aside monthslong divisions and are approaching House passage of their expansive social and environment bill
6:01AM ( 35 minutes ago )
China says 'not aware' of tennis player Peng Shuai issue
China's Foreign Ministry is sticking to its line that it isn't aware of the controversy surrounding tennis professional Peng Shuai, who disappeared after accusing a former top official of sexually assaulting her
5:54AM ( 42 minutes ago )
Europe's central banker: Not adding to pinch with rate hike
The head of the European Central Bank is doubling down on the message that it's no time to raise interest rates
5:52AM ( 44 minutes ago )
London house fire kills 2 women, 2 children; cause unclear
Two women and two children have died in a house fire in London
5:52AM ( 44 minutes ago )