Was CGTN caught fabricating the Peng Shuai email that walked back her claims of sexual assault by former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli?
Take a look at the email, and see if you can spot what they did wrong!
What Peng Shuai Email? A Quick Update!
On 2 November 2021, Chinese tennis star, Peng Shuai accused retired Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of pressuring her into having sex on Weibo (China’s version of Twitter).
On 14 November 2021, Steve Simon – the WTA Chairman and CEO released a public statement calling for her allegations to be “investigated fully, fairly, transparently and without censorship“.
On 18 November 2021, CGTN posted on Twitter what they claimed was an email to Steve Simon, the WTA Chairman and CEO.
In that email, Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai allegedly refuted her earlier claims of sexual assault by former Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli.
Hello everyone this is Peng Shuai.
Regarding the recent news released on the official website of the WTA, the content has not been confirmed or verified by myself and it was released without my consent. The news in that release, including the allegation of sexual assault, is not true. I’m not missing, nor am I unsafe. I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine. Thank you again for caring about me.
If the WTA publishes any more news about me, please verify it with me, and release it with my consent. As a professional tennis player, I thank you all for your companionship and consideration. I hope to promote Chinese tennis with you all if I have the chance in the future. I hope Chinese tennis will become better and better.
Once again, thank you for your consideration.
Was CGTN Caught Faking The Peng Shuai Email?
At first glance, the email that CGTN posted looked like your typical “written under duress” note, with awkward language. But who can refute it since Peng Shuai has not been seen since making her allegations?
Unfortunately, CGTN screwed up, by accidentally making TWO mistakes :
- addressing the email to “everyone“, instead of Steve Simon, and
- posting the screenshot with a visible cursor!
This email was supposedly written by Peng Shuai as a private message to Steve Simon, in response to his public statement.
Yet, the writer addressed it to “everyone”, instead of Steve Simon, the WTA Chairman and CEO.
If this was meant to be a public statement, Peng Shuai would have emailed it to media outlets worldwide, not just Steve Simon.
CGTN also framed it as a private email from Peng Shuai to Steve Simon, the contents of which they “learned” after it was sent.
Yet, not only was it addressed to “everyone”, the entire email sounds like it was written for a mass audience and not just Steve Simon, with phrases like :
- I thank you all…
- I hope to promote Chinese tennis with you all…
A Blinking Cursor???
The presence of the cursor clearly tells us that the email was being written when that screenshot was taken. It won’t appear if you are merely reading the email.
There are several possibilities for a cursor to appear in the screenshot :
- Peng Shuai wrote it and sent CGTN a screenshot of the draft, instead of CCing them the email like what anyone else would have done. The presence of the active cursor meant that the email was still being written, and may not be the final version.
- Someone punked CGTN by sending them a fabricated email, which they posted without verifying with Peng Shuai herself.
- The email was fabricated by someone at CGTN pretending to be Peng Shuai. That is the only way CGTN can possibly take a screenshot of an email with an active cursor.
Now, it is not possible to determine with certainty that CGTN faked the Peng Shuai email. It could be someone else. But it’s not hard to see why no one believes that the email was really written by Peng Shuai.
No matter how you slice and dice it, that pesky cursor makes the Peng Shuai email incredibly suspicious… or as our younger readers may say – very sus…
WTA Chairman and CEO, Steve Simon, said, “I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is attributed to her“.
Peng Shuai vs. Zhang Gaoli : A Quick Primer!
For those who missed the developing scandal involving the Chinese tennis star, here’s a quick summary…
On 2 November 2021, Peng Shuai accused retired Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault in a 1,600 word post on her official Weibo account.
Written like an open letter to Zhang Gaoli, she claimed that they had an intermittent relationship over 10 years.
“Why did you have to come back to me, took me to your home to force me to have sex with you? Yes, I did not have any evidence, and it was simply impossible to have evidence”
“I couldn’t describe how disgusted I was, and how many times I asked myself am I still a human? I feel like a walking corpse. Every day I was acting, which person is the real me?”
“I know that for someone of your eminence, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, you said you were not afraid. But even if it’s just me, like an egg hitting the stone, a moth flying into flames, courting self-destruction, I would tell the truth about us.”
Her post was quickly deleted from Weibo – in less than 10 minutes, but Chinese netizens took screenshots of it. They were shared widely, but were soon censored.
Peng Shuai has not been seen since she posted her accusations on Weibo.
As a result, tennis fans and netizens in general are incensed, with calls to #BoycottBeijingOlympics and #BoycottBeijing2022 increasing on social media.
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