Written by Staff Writer at CNN; Written by Xiaoqing Pi, Special to CNN
Actress and Beijing Capital University graduate, Peng Shuai, recently stepped forward to publicly accuse a Chinese sports official of sexual assault.
In a nearly seven-minute recorded statement broadcast by state-run CCTV , she said her relationship with Deng Jiancai, a former vice sports minister in the city of Xi’an, had ended in “shameful” circumstances, but neither of them could bring themselves to make it public.
The case has turned Deng into a role model for Chinese women, who are seeking greater political and civic rights to speak out against perceived wrongdoing.
“I am proud of myself,” the 36-year-old said in the broadcast,
Peng Shuai, 35, and Deng Jiancai, 59, announced they were breaking up last November. CCTV said they had then established a private partnership, with Deng serving as head of an art and culture company set up by Peng and her father, the artist, Wang Fuzhen.
Tennis analyst prepares to announce Peng Shuai won the 2015 Wimbledon singles title in London, on June 6, 2015.
From a junior circuit to the pros
Peng Shuai said she met Deng when she was a junior tennis player and he was helping to lead the Women’s Tennis Association Association (WTA). They started dating in her late teens and became engaged in 2009, and became engaged again last June.
He then helped her to qualify for the US Open, held in September 2016, and soon after he became vice minister of the Department of Culture and Sports at the State Council.
Peng Shuai of China, poses for a portrait in her hometown of Xi’an, on February 11, 2015. She is an actress and a former professional tennis player and best known for her stunning displays of athleticism and the shooting of the “Flipper” during her 1984 match.
A month after Deng became vice minister, Peng ended the relationship for reasons that she wrote on her personal social media account, but made a point to say that Deng had “not at all caused her to come forward”. She said it was Deng who, after she had separated from her husband, prompted her to become an activist.
“It is because of Deng that I have a voice,” she said.
Deng and Peng first encountered each other when she was 11 years old and he was a 12-year-old junior tennis player competing in the Chinese Open.
“If I can, I would ask Deng to please come and give me a hug,” she wrote.
Deng even came with her to her first professional tournament.
“She was really like a daughter to me,” Deng said.
“I helped her become one of the top tennis players,” Deng added.
Since parting ways, Peng Shuai has kept a low profile. She did not respond to requests for an interview for this story.
She became the first Chinese tennis player to win an Grand Slam title, winning the Wimbledon singles title in 2015. She was part of the Chinese team that won gold at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping hosted Peng’s mother, Wang Jingyuan, after the final
Peng entered Beijing Capital University in 1994, after finishing with a degree in administration at the Shenzhen Sports Institute in 1998. She played in 56 tournaments between 1995 and 2003, accumulating a record of 80 wins, 39 losses and nine draws.
From the wild and free
Throughout her long and accomplished career, Peng has never been reluctant to speak out, responding to everything from China’s alleged mistreatment of minorities in society, to sexual harassment in sports, to corruption and government officials.
In 2016, she was once again harassed, this time by a sports and entertainment journalist, who screamed at her while she was walking, and threatened to post her picture on social media.
She later retweeted the incident on her Twitter-like social media account, and responded with a hashtag that has been part of the #MeToo movement in China and around the world.
Born in northern Xinjiang province, a populous province in northwestern China, Peng is the daughter of Wang Jingyuan, an artist and father of Shenzhen Sports Institute director Wang Xiangbing, known as the founder of Olympic basketball.
In the video, she said she hopes the incident would “give more people courage to speak out about issues that are bothering them.”