Last night, a court sentenced Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai to two years in prison after convicting her of fraud. Speaking to a reporter from Agence France-Presse (AFP), human rights activist Peter Dahlin describes the case against Peng as a blatant crackdown on her dissent.
Peng Shuai, 28, was born and raised in China before arriving in the United States to study at high school. In January, AFP reports, she raised the flag of Hong Kong at the U.S. Open, in response to the ongoing occupation by pro-democracy protesters of the city. “I received messages that from her being a national sportswoman in China, she was imprisoned in China,” Dahlin said.
Dahlin, of the Helsinki Citizens’ Initiative for Human Rights, explained that the Chongqing court convicted Peng on multiple charges: Receiving a salary from a non-Chinese company, knowingly misrepresenting her true ownership of that company, and stealing company-issued stock. “This case really undermines the argument that people think human rights and democracy are matters for China and for Taiwan. It is against the international legal order.”
The court reportedly found evidence that Peng had given bogus signatures to get stock, taken pay from the company she was using for her own benefit, and even pocketed donations that came in. According to Dahlin, Peng had been active in civil disobedience before her arrest. For example, in 2011 she publicly accused the board of Chinese Super League club Guizhou Renhe for overspending on players in her teammates’ contracts.
Dahlin notes that Peng was at the forefront of the movement for independence in Hong Kong. “I think many of us don’t know what happened for the last few months,” he told AFP. “It seems that right before the Olympics, the Chinese authorities are putting Chinese sportswomen and Chinese sportsmen at great risk.”
He continued, “It doesn’t make any sense. Why are they doing this at the Olympics? What is the point of spending $100 million to $1 billion, for the games, to put more pressure on a small Asian democracy?”
Dahlin, a Chinese citizen, is in poor health. In the aftermath of his first interview with Reuters last year, Chinese authorities detained him and questioned him for several hours. He was eventually allowed to leave China and request asylum.
Read the full story at AFP.
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