China produces Peng Shuai, sort of

Well, I’m satisfied.

I’m reasonably sure I could fake a sunny smile if government goons told me, “Look happy or we’ll kill your family.”

Evidently the audio in the first clip makes it even more embarrassingly clear that it’s a staged proof-of-life video, designed to turn down the international heat on the Chinese government:

The Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai sits in a crowded restaurant surrounded by friends and her coach, who is going through next year’s training plan with her. ‘Tomorrow is November 20th’, he says, in a seeming non-sequitur. ‘No, tomorrow is the 21st’, one of her friends corrects him. ‘Oh yes, oh yes, the 21st’…

If the forced mention of tomorrow’s date didn’t set alarm bells ringing, the clip begins with someone off screen saying ‘Okay Okay, now is perfect’. This is followed by a couple of seconds of silence where Peng Shuai laughs awkwardly, before the coach launches into his remarks. The entire thing seems scripted; and the presence of the director’s cue at the beginning of the clip is laughably amateurish.

Hu Xijin, by the way, is the editor in chief of the Global Times, a CCP propaganda outlet. By handing the “scoop” to one of their own mouthpieces, Beijing isn’t even trying to pretend that the clips weren’t staged.

If you’re not following the story of Peng’s disappearance (and her staged reemergence), you should dial in now. It has a small but growing chance of causing a boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics and a rupture in China’s already poor relations with the west. Last week she shocked China in a social-media post by accusing the country’s former vice premier of having sexually assaulted her three years ago. That post was quickly scrubbed from Chinese media and Peng promptly went missing, with only a dubious “everything’s fine” message released in her name afterward to assure the world that she was alive.

To their credit, her colleagues in the Women’s Tennis Association raised an outcry. The head of the WTA evenvowed to pull out of China if Peng’s safety wasn’t assured. China hawks here in the U.S. and other western countries pointed to her kidnapping as further reason, if any more was needed, to boycott the coming Olympics. Under pressure, the ChiComs farted out the videos posted above, as well as embarrassing photos like this:

A western woman who’d just accused a high-ranking government official in her home country of having raped her wouldn’t be carrying on cheerily in public as if nothing had happened. In its fervor to show how “normally” Peng is behaving, the ChiComs are unwittingly broadcasting how abnormal all of this is.

Thankfully, their western critics aren’t taking the off-ramp that the staged photos are designed to offer. WTA Chairman Steve Simon issued a statement about the videos last night that read in part, “While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference. This video alone is insufficient.” The rapacious International Olympic Committee sees potential trouble for the coming Games if the standoff over Peng doesn’t ease soon:

Although the outrage is unlikely to stop the Beijing Winter Games going ahead in February, Pound would not completely rule it out.

“If that’s not resolved in a sensible way very soon it may spin out of control,” Pound, the IOC’s longest serving member, told Reuters. “It may (force IOC into taking a harder line).

“Whether that escalates to a cessation of the Olympic Games I doubt it. But you never know.”

The IOC won’t cancel the Games to punish China. If they cared about ChiCom human-rights abuses, they wouldn’t have awarded them to Beijing in the first place. But having the U.S. and western corporate sponsors pull out would be a grievous blow to their bottom line and to global public interest in the competition. Stay tuned.

Your op-ed of the day comes from NBA star Enes Kanter, a guy who first showed his moral fortitude and personal courage in defying the Erdogan regime and who’s lately begun to speak out against China. Kanter’s plea in today’s WSJ: Protest China’s treatment of Peng and so many other innocent people by boycotting the Games.

We must also stop giving priority to money over morals. Claiming we are “misinformed” or “not really educated” should no longer be an excuse. Take initiative. Reach out to activists and communities. Try to learn about the Chinese government’s abuses. We can all be better allies, and stand in solidarity.

And we must take a firm stance against the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. While the Women’s Tennis Association has voiced concern for Ms. Peng, the International Olympic Committee has shockingly echoed Chinese state media’s rhetoric about her case. This comes as no surprise, as the IOC has ignored Beijing’s abuses for years. As athletes concerned about human rights and justice, we must pressure the IOC to move the games. All the gold medals in the world aren’t worth selling your values and your principles to the Chinese Communist Party.

It’s depressing that no native-born American pro athlete is as clear-eyed about Chinese oppression as Kanter is. I’ll leave you with Ted Cruz, who surprisingly *isn’t* for a full boycott of the Games, a position I assumed would be universal among populist China-hawk Republicans.