The case of Peng Shuai and a Chinese blot on the Winter Olympics
The Chinese government has continuously meddled with sportspersons both nationally and internationally in order to exert multiple agendas which govern their way of functioning.
The world is no stranger to the influence of politics on sports. There are numerous cases where political leaders have tried to exert influence over certain sports or even sportspersons by virtue of their position in society. The latest victim of this was tennis player Peng Shuai who has been 'made to disappear' after coming out with allegations against Zhang Gaoli (the former Vice Premier of China). It was almost evident as soon as the allegations surfaced that the Chinese government would do whatever it could to suppress the storm that it had caused. And unfortunately, they have been successful in doing so.
The question that has arisen in this regard is about the safety and security of all competing athletes in China. This extends to foreign athletes who arrive for events from across the world but who display signs of disgruntlment with the Chinese government. Turkish footballer Mesut Ozil is a prime example of an individual who was shut down for speaking up on human rights abuse in China. After a strongly worded post about the persecution of UIghur Muslims, the Chinese government threated Arsenal F.C into distancing themselves from the comments. They even ensured that Ozils name would not be mentioned by Chinese football commentators and the popular video game PES had to block Ozil's name on the screen.
The power and influence exerted by the Chinese government on international organisations is extreme and this subsequently leads to political agendas being pursued time and again by them. Ultimately, sports has also been affected in a major way with Peng Shuai being a prime example of systematic shut downs by the Chinese Government. It is evident that an allegation of this nature on China's 2nd most powerful man would spiral into a major internal and external political issue. The important part for the government however was to deal with it appropriately rather than addressing the issue at hand.
The Winter Olympics is the next big sporting event which China will host and is set to take place in Feb 2022. With several hundred athletes set to travel to the country next year, the focus of the sporting world will be on Chinese governance and hospitality. If the Peng Shuai case does manage to sustain itself for a lengthy period of time, questions will be asked about the treatment of both foreign and domestic athletes in China. Safety concerns will be a big issue for foreign athletes who hail from countries that are not on friendly terms with China. Moreover, there is a high possibility of targeting foreign athletes who have previously spoken out against the Chinese government on a public platform. It is clear that there is an agenda being pursued by the government,which sees no boundaries or restrictions on who gets targetted.
There is hope that no harm has been done to Peng Shuai since videos have recently surfaced showing her to be in good spirits. While this might or might not be doctored, Peng Shuai has definitely caused a stir amongst the Chinese political fraternity who pride themselves on maintaining a a certain image and reputation of the country. The government has repeatedly sidelined celebrities and athletes who threaten the image of the country in any way.
There is no end to the cycle of suppression which is so often one of the fundamental tenets of a dictatorship. Sadly, this has encorached upon sports as well and China does not have any qualms in ensuring that star athletes who shine abroad are silenced in every way possible; even if it means death. One can only hope that the international sports fraternity takes cognisance and manages to single out China for its misdeeds and misgivings. This is the only way that a country can allows its atheltes to compete peacefully while also maintaining a hold over basic human rights.