International concern for Peng Shuai has been building for weeks, ever since the Chinese tennis star accused a high-ranking Communist Party official of sexually assaulting her. The allegations first surfaced on Weibo, a social media platform similar to Twitter used in China, on Nov. 2. Twenty minutes after she posted her account, authorities took it down, scrubbing any mention of the tennis player across all media in China. Though she’d been seen on a Zoom call with the International Olympic Committee recently, no one has been able to independently verify her whereabouts, or confirm if she is safe, since making the allegations.
Peng isn’t the only high-profile woman to be censored by the Chinese government in recent months. Prominent Chinese feminist Zhou Xiaoxuan, who’s been at the forefront of the nation’s growing #MeToo movement, has also been subject to blanket censorship after she publicly alleged that a famous Chinese television host had forcibly kissed and groped her in 2014.
The growing crackdown on #MeToo in China is yet another example of how progressive forces are clashing with the country’s authoritarian governance, where narratives around social issues are carefully filtered, and state propaganda is rampant, says Hua Dong, senior academic specialist in Chinese and coordinator of the Chinese program at Northeastern.