By Bill Gertz
Article Source

Revelations of a sordid sexual affair and abuse made by a leading female Chinese tennis pro against a former member of the Chinese Politburo’s standing committee are the latest sign of increased tensions among senior party leaders in Beijing, according to American specialists on China and the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

While Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai was shown in brief video clips over the weekend, her lengthy, still-unexplained disappearance and the near-total social media blackout imposed on her story show how sensitive her case is for President Xi Jinping and the country’s Communist Party leadership.

In a video call with International Olympic Committee leaders Sunday, Ms. Peng said she was fine, but asked for privacy and offered no explanation for her decision to air her story, her three-week disappearance, or the online censorship campaign that her charges sparked.

While fellow tennis stars and sports organizations rallied to her cause, even Western governments were pressing Beijing for answers.

China‘s rulers appeared determined to stifle all debate in the weeks after Ms. Peng on Nov. 2 accused Zhang Gaoli, a now-retired member of the party’s ruling Standing Committee until 2018, of forcing her to have sex with him. In posts quickly scrubbed from China‘s social media giant Weibo, Ms. Peng complained about the married Mr. Zhang‘s treatment of her in the course of an off-and-on affair that lasted several years, including at least one instance of forced sex while a Zhang aide stood guard nearby.

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