China’s feminists stay silent on tennis star’s sexual assault

(CNN) — After revelations that China’s tennis star Chen Yufei had been accused of assaulting a fellow player, the country’s national feminist organizations have remained relatively silent on the matter.

“I am really shocked to hear the latest news about Chen Yufei,” Qi Chenglin, a founder of an internet feminist group called The Feminist Collective, wrote on her Weibo account, according to a translation from People’s Daily.

“How can we blame our victims if they do not deserve it? If Chen had done this to someone else I would stand by him but he is an extremely good player, a sincere person and no doubt a respected sportsperson.”

Chen, a fifth-year student at the Institute of Petroleum and Chemical Engineering, was forced to withdraw from the Chinese team’s upcoming event this week because he was “suffering extreme anxiety” about accusations of assaulting Chinese player Zhang Shuai in Beijing on May 13, according to a statement by the China Tennis Association.

The court order prohibits Chen from serving as a player and allow him to attend only matches to support his teammate.

The tennis body said that “no assumptions are made” on Zhang’s condition, according to the Global Times, a state-owned Chinese newspaper.

The Chinese feminists interviewed by CNN were all strong critics of women’s rights in China.

The Feminist Collective draws its name from an internationally renowned list of women’s rights activists that was founded and named after Qi by Tzu Chi, a Chinese philosopher.

Other prominent Chinese feminists in recent years have included Zeng Jinyan, the former wife of high-ranking politician Bo Xilai. Zeng was arrested in 2016 on suspicion of “illegal information disclosure” over her work investigating financial irregularities during Bo’s time as Chongqing’s party chief.

One of the first feminist organizations to organize outside the country, the Feminist Collective gained traction in China after its founder Qi made a popular pro-feminist film about rape, “When Flower Blooms” (网生的女威活动).

The collective is not a government-sanctioned organization. Qi’s group is one of the many internet feminist groups that flourished in China in the wake of President Xi Jinping’s government crackdown on freedom of speech.

Zhang’s original accusation against Chen was in a post on the social media app WeChat, which has been deleted by the country’s authorities. The accusation did not specify the date of the incident.

Xue Yun, a 28-year-old University of Southern California graduate student at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, accused Chen of assaulting her on May 13.

In her post, Zhang said that Chen, who is regarded as one of China’s top players in the men’s singles tournament, was “passionate and intimate” with her at the Beijing sport center. But he then started to grab her by the shoulders “one by one and pull her out of control.”

“Then Chen grabbed my wrist and started telling me that he loved me and that everything would be OK,” Zhang wrote on her WeChat account. “But he pulled my head back and pulled my upper thigh so forcefully that it left a bruise and further injured my ankle. I started crying out loud in pain but somehow, to let him go, I turned over.”

Zhang and Xue left the Beijing sport center and went to the police.

The accusations against Chen were not reported by Chinese media until Monday. Zhang told CNN on Friday that she had not reported her accusation to the police because she did not want to jeopardize her chances of competing.

“In my opinion, there are clear indications that [Chen] is a fraud,” Zhang told CNN. “Not only does he not deserve the title ‘sportsman’ but he had threatened me for three years and now forced me to go to the police about it.”

In a column for International Women’s Day in 2015, Qi wrote, “The feminist in me has the responsibility to express my criticism to feminist aso-bourgeois circles. It should not be worse than taboo to be critical of some pseudo-feminists and feminists.”

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