A video call between the head of the International Olympic Committee and Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai is casting renewed spotlight on the former senior official accused of sexual assault in a post on the athlete’s social-media account — who played an important role in arranging the upcoming Winter Olympics.
“Zhang Gaoli kept a low profile but was considered a powerful and skilled technocrat.”
Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier and retired member of the Communist Party’s ruling Politburo Standing Committee, kept a relatively low profile for an official of his rank. But during his time in office he was regarded as a powerful and skilled technocrat, and was tasked with handling some of Beijing’s highest priorities, among which was managing China’s bid for the 2022 Games.
Zhang headed a steering group to “guide, support and supervise the 2022 bid,” according to IOC documents. The steering group included the “heads of all relevant ministries,” the documents say, and his role in it put him in contact with the highest ranking Olympic officials, including IOC president Thomas Bach.
Chinese government announcements also identified Zhang as head of the steering group, saying he gave instructions on everything from stadium construction to transportation before he handed the job to his successor in 2018.
Video posted by Chinese state media journalists showed tennis star Peng Shuai making her first public appearance after she disappeared in early November. Peng has raised global concern following a sexual-assault accusation against a retired senior Chinese official. Photo: Twitter/HuXijin_GT
The sexual assault allegation against Zhang, 75, first surfaced in a Nov. 2 post on Ms. Peng’s verified account on the Twitter-like Weibo platform. The post disappeared after roughly 20 minutes, and searches for her name on popular Chinese social-media platforms have been blocked ever since.
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