Governments have control over how their populations access the internet.
Knowing that the internet is the source of information that can be either good or bad for a country's reputations as well as its officials, many governments are scrutinizing the web their own netizens can access.
Some are also actively monitoring its contents and traffic, to censor whatever they think is necessary.
China is among the few countries around the world that has a very strict regulations when it comes to the internet.
Officials in the country can do what others don't in order to curb information they think is harmful.
And Peng Shuai is apparently caught in this censorship, after sharing an alleged sex scandal on the social media Weibo.
Peng Shuai is a Chinese professional tennis player, ranked as world's number one in doubles by the Women's Tennis Association's ranking.
As the first ever Chinese to received that rank, Peng has also won numerous gold medals, and ranked high in both singles and doubles titles. Her best performance was at a Grand Slam tournament in singles at the 2014 U.S. Open, where she reached the semifinals, and became the third Chinese tennis player in history to make a major semifinal after Zheng Jie and Li Na.
Born 8 January 1986, Peng has also made her name famous after defeating many of the world's top-10 and even top-5 players.
With her many achievements and recognitions, she is well known, both in China and overseas.
In November 2021, Peng accused former senior Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli for sexually assaulting her, three years earlier.
She made this announcement on Weibo through her verified Weibo microblog account, accusing the former high-ranking member of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
While Peng said that she and Zhang had an on-and-off consensual relationship, her revelation marked the first time a member of the top CCP echelon faced public allegations of sexual misconduct.
Peng's post quickly attracted the #MeToo movement in China.
However, her post was then removed, only 20 minutes after being posted.
And later, Peng disappeared from the public.
This allegation sparked numerous discussions on how far Chinese government will go to blanket everything it thinks is required, and how much it is willing to utilize its power to censor social media and news outlets.
When asked about her whereabouts, no government officials seemed to really give any clarity.
About a week later, WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon, called on Chinese authorities to investigate Peng's allegations.
He called for an end to official state censorship on the subject.
He also sent his inquiry through the state-affiliated Chinese Tennis Association, in order to know that Peng was safe and not under any physical threat.
But still, nobody could confirm her status.
Other world-class tennis players started commenting. From Novak Djokovic who expressed his shock at Peng's disappearance, to Naomi Osaka who posted a message on Twitter demanding answers about Peng's whereabouts and her sexual allegation. Tennis players Serena Williams, Andy Murray and Billie Jean King have also expressed their concerns on Peng's alleged disappearance.
Some clarity was given on November 17th, when the Chinese state media outlet China Global Television Network released an email allegedly written by Peng to Simon.
In the email, it was stated that Peng was resting at her home, and she was not at all missing.
She also said that the allegation of sexual assault was not true.
The WTA was not convinced, and later asked about the authenticity of the information.
Simon stated that the publication by the media only raised his concerns as to her safety and whereabouts.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) stepped in, and so did the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Liz Throssell, who demanded transparency about the issue.
Later, publications released more evidence, including photos of Peng with her friends, and more photos of her posing with her cat and stuffed animals. It was said that Peng was indeed staying at home, and that her "disappearance" was because she didn't want to be disturbed.
Peng Shuai’s WeChat moments just posted three latest photos and said “Happy weekend”.
Her friend shared the three photos and the screenshot of Peng’s WeChat moments. pic.twitter.com/tut8CEH6gu
— Shen Shiwei沈诗伟 (@shen_shiwei) November 19, 2021
On 21 November 2021, the IOC said that Peng had spoken to Thomas Bach, Emma Terho and Li Lingwei in a video call, and said she "is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time."
Peng was then seen in public for the first time, during the opening ceremony of the Fila Kids Junior Tennis Challenger Finals in Beijing.
This kind of incident isn't the first time in China.
In the past, numerous celebrities and business people have "disappeared."