China's disappeared tennis star emerges ... to retract sexual assault allegations against Vice Premier

(AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Will this be enough to get Nike, the NBA, and the Hollywood establishment off the hook? You can bet that China’s apologists in the sports/entertainment industries will give Peng Shuai’s recantation as much of a boost as possible in that effort.

NBC’s Today called this a “new twist,” but there’s nothing new about the Orwellian maneuver of editing history:

Following the posting, the three-time Olympian and former Wimbledon champion appeared standing beside a tennis court in Beijing, waving and signing oversize commemorative tennis balls for children. The foreign arm of state TV also issued a statement in English attributed to Peng that retracted her accusation against Zhang.

WTA chief executive Steve Simon questioned the emailed statement’s legitimacy while others said it only increased their concern about her safety. In the Lianhe Zaobao interview, Peng said she wrote the statement in Chinese and it was later translated into English but that there was no substantive difference in meaning between the two versions.

Zhang, 75, was a member of the party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee until 2018 and a top lieutenant to president and party leader Xi Jinping. He has not appeared in public or commented on Peng’s accusation.

Simon said the move to put a halt to the tour’s play in China, including Hong Kong, came with the backing of the WTA board of directors, players, tournaments and sponsors. It was the strongest public stand against China taken by a sports body — and one that could cost the WTA millions of dollars.

The WTA isn’t taking this at face value. They plan to continue their boycott of China until an outside, independent investigation takes place into what happened to Peng. CNN also sounds skeptical about the reversal:

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has denied making sexual assault allegations against a retired Communist Party leader, following more than a month of growing concern about her safety and whereabouts that led to the Women’s Tennis Association pulling out of China.

“I have never spoken or written about anyone sexually assaulting me,” Peng told Singapore-based Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao on Sunday, in her first comments to international media since the explosive allegations came to light. …

Peng said there was a misunderstanding about the since-deleted social media post on her verified account on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform, which detailed the allegations on November 2.

“First of all, it’s my personal privacy. There possibly has been a lot of misunderstanding. Therefore, there should not be such distorted interpretation here,” she said.

If Peng had admitted to lying, that might have been more believable, or at least more defensible. Claiming to never making the accusation at all is bizarre, so much so that it’s hardly going to convince critics. This settles nothing, except to highlight the amount of power and control that Beijing exerts even over its favored propaganda celebrities.

The news media and the WTA aren’t really the targets of this Orwellian rewriting of history, however. China has likely written off the WTA and any prestige their tournaments provide the Xi regime. This is intended for the sell-outs in Western entertainment and sports conglomerates — first to boost the Olympics in February, but longer term to provide cover for the NBA, NFL, and Hollywood corporate boards. Xi knows that they’re blinded by dollar signs anyway, and all they need is an excuse to ignore Peng’s plight, not to mention the multitudes of Uyghurs in Xi’s concentration camps. They’ll fall in line at the trough, and Xi knows it.