The International Olympic Committee has shamefully caved to China’s propaganda machine in the aftermath of the Nov. 2 “disappearance” of tennis star Peng Shuai.
Peng, 35, went missing after she alleged on Chinese social media that she was sexually abused by Zhang Gaoli, 75. He was China’s vice premier from 2013 to 2018.
Chinese censors quickly swung into action. They clamped down on Internet discussions of Peng’s case and imposed a media blackout.
The government counter-offensive kicked off Nov. 18 when the Women’s Tennis Assn. received a letter purportedly from Peng in which she recanted her allegations against Zhang.
Photos and videos of Peng appeared on Chinese-government affiliated social media accounts on Nov. 19 and Nov. 20. Those staged photos showed Peng at home, in a restaurant and at a tennis event. No story here, Chinese officials hoped.
The IOC whitewashed the affair on Nov. 21, issuing a statement saying that everything is hunky dory with three-time Olympian Peng.
It said IOC president Thomas Bach had a 30-minute video call with Peng, who claimed to “be safe and well and living at her home in Beijing.” Case closed.
Bach explained that Peng “would like to have her privacy respected at this time,” which is why she prefers "to spend time with friends and family right now.” China’s propagandists could not have done a better job.
Peng even agreed to go to dinner with Bach in January once he arrives in Beijing just ahead of the Olympic Games.
There is no word from the IOC about whether Bach brought up the sexual abuse charges during his conversation with Peng.
One can safely assume that he didn’t, because that would have upset the power brokers in Beijing and jeopardized lucrative corporate sponsorships.
Human Rights Watch, though, isn’t willing to kowtow before China’s propaganda masters. It has criticized the IOC for collaborating with China’s PR machine.
“The IOC has vaulted itself from silence about Beijing’s abysmal human rights record to active collaboration with Chinese authorities in undermining freedom of speech and disregarding alleged sexual assault,” said a statement from Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at HRW. “The IOC appears to prize its relationship with a major human rights violator over the rights and safety of Olympic athletes.”
HRW deserves a gold medal for standing up to China. Bach and the IOC fail to measure up.
Blessed are the journalists. Pope Francis lauded journalism during a ceremony on Nov. 13 that honored Reuters’ Philip Pullella and Televisa’s Valentina Alazraki for their more than 40-year coverage of the Vatican.
“Journalism is not so much a matter of choosing a profession, but rather of embarking on a mission, a bit like a doctor, who studies and works to cure evil in the world,” said the pope. “Your mission is to explain the world, to make it less obscure, to make those who live in it less afraid and to look at others with greater awareness.”
Pope Francis thanked Pullella and Alazraki “for telling us what is wrong in church” and for being the voice of victims of abuse by priests.
He said the world is in great need of journalists and communicators who are passionate about reality.
Pope Francis wants the journalism community to know “the pope loves you, follows you, esteems you, considers you precious.”
Pullella and Alazraki received the highest papal honor given to a lay person who is not a head of state.
Rupert talks the talk but fails to walk the walk. Rupert Murdoch told News Corp. shareholders on Nov. 17 that conservatives must play a role in the US debate over economic policies.
But he worries that it won't happen because conservatives remain fixated on Donald Trump and his wacky 2020 “stolen election” rant.
Bloomberg Opinion’s Tim O’Brien has the answer for Rupe. Use your power to get Fox News, New York Post and Wall Street Journal editorialists to stop running Trump’s lies and deceits.
Murdoch is executive chairman of News Corp. (owner of WSJ and NYP) and chairman of Fox Corp. (Fox News). He owns 41 percent of Fox and 38 percent of News Corp. The guy has leverage.
O’Brien notes that Fox News amplifies the dangerous and damaging garbage that Trump continues to peddle and is the single most influential media platform supporting him.
If Murdoch truly wants to turn the page on Trump, he “could stop allowing some of Fox’s most influential anchors and broadcasters to spew poisonous talking points,” wrote O’Brien.
Tucker Carlson is a good place to start, Rupe.