Oct 17, 2022 - World

Ex-Beijing official accused of sexually assaulting Peng Shuai attends Xi speech

Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli attends the opening session of the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC)  on October 16, 2022 in Beijing, China.

China's former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli attending the 20th national congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing on Sunday. Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

China's former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli has made his first public appearance since Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai accused him of sexually assaulting her, attending the Communist Party Congress in Beijing Sunday.

Thought bubble, via Axios China reporter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian: All public events at the 20th Party congress are highly choreographed. Zhang's appearance almost certainly received approval from top Communist Party figures, suggesting that his position within the party remains secure despite the allegation.

  • Peng's accusation was politically unacceptable because under President Xi Jinping, only the party is allowed to police its own members. By allowing Zhang to appear at Beijing's most important event in five years, the party is sending a message that it is impervious to outside criticism.

Details: Images showed Zhang sitting alongside other retired and current Communist Party leaders in the front row of the podium as Xi gave his speech.

The big picture: Zhang has never publicly commented on the allegations that Peng made in a social media post last November — which prompted the Women's Tennis Association to suspend all tournaments in China as the WTA and others raised concerns about her well-being.

Go deeper