China censors live TV segment about Peng Shuai in confronting moment

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CNN, pictured here having its live TV segment about Peng Shuai censored by China.
CNN had its live TV segment about Peng Shuai censored by China. Image: CNN

CNN has broadcast a live TV example of the confronting extent of China's censorship, highlighting the disturbing reality for tennis star Peng Shuai.

The whereabouts of the former doubles World No.1 have been a matter of international concern for nearly three weeks after she alleged that a former senior Chinese government official sexually assaulted her.

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Peng held a video call with the president of the International Olympic Committee on Sunday in which she reportedly said she was "safe and well".

However Thomas Bach and the IOC have since been accused of fuelling China's censorship and propaganda, with the WTA saying the video call didn't do enough to dispel fears that Peng is being silenced.

On Monday, a confronting example of China's censorship played out on live TV during a segment on CNN about Peng.

During a cross to international correspondent Will Ripley, the broadcast showed the feed to China being switched to colour bars instead of what the rest of the world was seeing.

“I want to explain to our viewers what’s happening on our screen right now because underneath your (Ripley’s) face, they can see a box which is the actual live feed of this broadcast in China, but it’s all colour bars and it went to colour bars the minute you started talking," one anchor said.

Ripley replied: “Chinese censors, John. I have lost count over the last eight years here in Asia covering China how many times CNN’s coverage of controversial issues has been censored.

“It used to go straight to black, now they’ve upgraded and they go to colour bars. 

"But nonetheless it is a live, real-time example of the censorship that’s happening in the mainland.

“They scrubbed Peng Shuai from the internet, they’re certainly not talking about this on television and even on international networks, they have an army of censors waiting to push that button the minute that we start talking about this story.”

WTA says IOC's call with Peng Shuai not enough

Photos published by Chinese state media journalists show Peng appeared at a dinner with friends on Saturday and at a children's tennis tournament in Beijing on Sunday. 

But they have done little to quell concerns.

"It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don't alleviate or address the WTA's concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion," a WTA spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

Asked about the call with the IOC, the spokeswoman said: "This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern."

IOC President Thomas Bach, pictured here holding a video call with Peng Shuai.
IOC President Thomas Bach holding a video call with Peng Shuai. (Image: AAP)

The IOC said in a statement that Peng held a 30-minute call with Thomas Bach on Sunday and thanked the Olympic organisation for its concern.

"She explained that she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time," the IOC's statement said.

"That is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family right now. 

"Nevertheless, she will continue to be involved in tennis, the sport she loves so much."

On November 2, Peng posted on Chinese social media that former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli had coerced her into sex and they later had an on-off consensual relationship.

Peng Shuai, pictured here at the Australian Open.
Peng Shuai has accused former vice premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. (Photo by PAUL CROCK,ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/AFP via Getty Images)

The post was quickly deleted and the topic has been blocked from discussion on China's heavily censored internet.

Neither Zhang nor the Chinese government have commented on Peng's allegations.

The United States and Britain subsequently called for China to provide proof of Peng's whereabouts and leading tennis players expressed concern about her wellbeing.

with agencies

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