CNN has aired a live TV preview of the confrontational extent of China’s censorship, highlighting the unsettling reality of tennis star Peng Shuai.
The whereabouts of the former double-world No. 1 have been a matter of international concern for nearly three weeks after she claimed a former senior Chinese government official had sexually assaulted her.
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Peng held a video call with the president from the International Olympic Committee on Sunday, in which she allegedly said she was “safe and sound”.
But Thomas Bach and the IOC have since been accused of boosting China’s censorship and propaganda, with The WTA said the video call did not do enough to remove the fear that Peng will be silenced.
On Monday, a confrontational example of China’s censorship unfolded on live television during a CNN episode on Peng.
Under a cross to international correspondent Will Ripley, the broadcast showed that the feed to China was shifting to color bars instead of what the rest of the world saw.
“I want to explain to our viewers what’s going on on our screen right now, because under your (Ripley’s) face they can see a box that’s the actual live feed for this show in China, but it’s all color bars, and it went in color blocking the moment you started talking, “said an anchor.
Ripley replied, “Chinese censors, John. I’ve lost count over the last eight years here in Asia, where I’ve covered China, how many times CNN’s coverage of controversial issues has been censored.
“It used to go straight to black, now they’ve upgraded and they go to color bars.
“But nonetheless, it’s a live, real-time example of the censorship that is happening on the mainland.
“They scrubbed Peng Shuai from the internet, they certainly do not talk about this on television and even on international networks, they have an army of censors waiting to press that button the moment we start talking about this story.”
The WTA says the IOC’s call with Peng Shuai is not enough
Photos published by Chinese state media journalists the show Peng showed up for a dinner with friends on Saturday and at a children’s tennis tournament in Beijing on Sunday.
But they have not done much to allay concerns.
“It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they do not alleviate or address the WTA’s concern about her well – being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion,” a WTA spokeswoman said in an email.
Asked about the call with the IOC, the spokeswoman said: “This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, of her allegation of sexual assault, which is the question that gave rise to our initial concern.”
The IOC said in a statement that Peng held a 30-minute call with Thomas Bach on Sunday and thanked the Olympic organization for its concern.
“She explained that she is safe and sound in her home in Beijing, but she would like to have her privacy respected at this time,” the IOC statement said.
“That’s why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now.
“Still, she will continue to be involved in tennis, the sport she loves so much.”
On November 2, Peng wrote on Chinese social media that former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli had forced her into sex and that they later had an on-off consensus relationship.
The post was quickly deleted and the topic has been blocked from discussion on China’s highly censored internet.
Neither Zhang nor the Chinese government have commented on Peng’s claims.
The United States and the United Kingdom subsequently invited China to provide evidence of Peng’s whereabouts and leading tennis players expressed concern about her well-being.
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