Who is Zhang Gaoli? The man at the center of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai’s #MeToo allegation

As the head of a government working group on the Beijing Games, Zhang Amid growing global concern about her safety and well-being, individuals working for Chinese government-controlled media and the state sports system released Peng said she then began an extramarital relationship with Zhang, but she suffered “too much injustice and insults.” She claimed they got into a quarrel in late October, and Zhang refused to meet her and disappeared.”I couldn’t describe how disgusted I was, and how many times I asked myself am I still a human? I feel like a walking corpse. Every day I was acting, which person is the real me?” wrote Peng. CNN could not independently verify the authenticity of the more than 1,600-word post.At a news conference Tuesday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian declined to comment on whether the Chinese government will launch an investigation into Peng’s sexual assault allegations against Zhang. He repeated previous comments made to reporters, saying Peng’s situation “was not a diplomatic issue.”He added that the government hoped “malicious speculation” about Peng’s well-being and whereabouts would stop, and that her case should not be politicized.Peng’s original post sent shock waves through Chinese social media, and was deleted within 30 minutes. Since then, Chinese censors have been diligently scrubbing her name and even the vaguest references to her allegations from the internet.And as individuals connected to Chinese state media push a narrative that Peng is well on international platforms that are blocked in China, mention of the tennis star remains entirely absent within the country’s own domestic media and online sphere. Zhang, meanwhile, has remained silent. His last public appearance was on July 1, at a grand ceremony celebrating the 100th founding anniversary of the party in central Beijing. The septuagenarian was seen standing on top of the Gate of Heavenly Peace among a row of retired leaders. Will there be an investigation?The Women’s Tennis Association, as well as some of the biggest names in tennis and the United Nations have called for a full, fair and transparent investigation into Peng’s allegations against Zhang.But so far, there has been no indication an investigation is underway.Chinese authorities have not acknowledged Peng’s accusation, and it remains unclear if Peng has reported her allegations to the police. Peng wrote in the post that she did not have any evidence, and “it was simply impossible to have evidence” because Zhang was always worried that she would record things.Ling Li, an expert on Chinese politics and law at the University of Vienna, said if Peng’s allegations were true, Zhang’s extramarital relationship would no doubt be regarded as “improper” and a violation of the “lifestyle discipline” of the party.According to the rules of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the party’s much-feared disciplinary watchdog, the sanction for such an offense ranges from remonstration to expulsion from the party, depending how much damage the party has suffered from the offense, Li said.”Having said that, there has been no party official of (Zhang’s) rank who has been expelled from the party based on a lifestyle offense alone. And an allegation of sexual misconduct does not necessarily trigger an anti-corruption investigation,” she added.”If past practice is any guide, to launch an anti-corruption investigation against a member of the Politburo or above, the decision needs to be made by the Politburo Standing Committee collectively.”‘);$vidEndSlate.removeClass(‘video__end-slate–inactive’).addClass(‘video__end-slate–active’);}};CNN.autoPlayVideoExist = (CNN.autoPlayVideoExist === true) ? true : false;var configObj = {thumb: ‘none’,video: ‘business/2021/11/19/steve-simon-womens-tennis-association-chairman-peng-shuai-ebof-sot-vpx.cnn’,width: ‘100%’,height: ‘100%’,section: ‘international’,profile: ‘expansion’,network: ‘cnn’,markupId: ‘body-text_64’,theoplayer: {allowNativeFullscreen: true},adsection: ‘const-article-inpage’,frameWidth: ‘100%’,frameHeight: ‘100%’,posterImageOverride: {“mini”:{“width”:220,”type”:”jpg”,”uri”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/211118220305-steve-simon-small-169.jpeg”,”height”:124},”xsmall”:{“width”:307,”type”:”jpg”,”uri”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/211118220305-steve-simon-medium-plus-169.jpeg”,”height”:173},”small”:{“width”:460,”type”:”jpg”,”uri”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/211118220305-steve-simon-large-169.jpeg”,”height”:259},”medium”:{“width”:780,”type”:”jpg”,”uri”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/211118220305-steve-simon-exlarge-169.jpeg”,”height”:438},”large”:{“width”:1100,”type”:”jpg”,”uri”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/211118220305-steve-simon-super-169.jpeg”,”height”:619},”full16x9″:{“width”:1600,”type”:”jpg”,”uri”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/211118220305-steve-simon-full-169.jpeg”,”height”:900},”mini1x1″:{“width”:120,”type”:”jpg”,”uri”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/211118220305-steve-simon-small-11.jpeg”,”height”:120}}},autoStartVideo = false,isVideoReplayClicked = false,callbackObj,containerEl,currentVideoCollection = [],currentVideoCollectionId = ”,isLivePlayer = false,mediaMetadataCallbacks,mobilePinnedView = null,moveToNextTimeout,mutePlayerEnabled = false,nextVideoId = ”,nextVideoUrl = ”,turnOnFlashMessaging = false,videoPinner,videoEndSlateImpl;if (CNN.autoPlayVideoExist === false) {autoStartVideo = false;autoStartVideo = typeof CNN.isLoggedInVideoCheck === ‘function’ ? 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In China, party leaders of Zhang’s rank are beyond reproach from members of the general public, and it would be almost unthinkable that a sexual assault allegation could bring down a top leader.Deng, the former party journal editor, said it is virtually impossible for the Communist Party to cave in to international pressure to conduct a transparent investigation into Zhang and release the results to the world.Even though Zhang is not seen as an ally of Xi’s (instead, he is considered to be in the orbit of former President Jiang Zemin and his so-called Shanghai faction), publicly punishing a former elite official who worked so closely with Xi for alleged sexual misconduct would likely be considered a big embarrassment not only for the party, but also to Xi himself — especially given that Xi has doubled down hard on enforcing party discipline. Under Xi, the party has made an example of disgraced officials, including those who have abused their power for sex. In recent years, it has become common for salacious accounts of officials’ tangled private lives to be published in state media following their removal from office on corruption charges.”As soon as he came to power, Xi underscored that officials should be honest and upright, and act as moral role models for society. He has demanded Communist Party members to maintain their (ideological) purity,” Deng said. “While indiscretion in private life is still prevalent among officials, it is a different matter when it is thrust into the public view.”And because of that, Deng says he believes the party has likely already quietly launched an internal investigation into Peng’s allegations. But neither the process nor the result of the probe is likely be announced externally, he said.”The last thing they want to do is to give the international community an impression that they’ve been pressured into doing it,” Deng said.Now, the ball is in the court of the international sports community — whether they’ll be satisfied by the “proof of life” videos of Peng, or if they will continue to press for a full investigation into her allegations.As for Zhang, it’s likely he would never have expected that after committing much of the final years of his career to preparations for the Winter Olympics, allegations against him would one day fuel growing calls for a boycott of the Games.”But if more and more countries join the Olympic boycott and the pressure becomes too acute, we can’t entirely exclude the possibility — however small — that (the party) might throw Zhang under the bus,” said Deng.”This was originally a scandal against Zhang, but the (party’s) fetish for power has blunted its response, turning a personal scandal into a national scandal.”