Zhang Yuxiao: Chinese tennis player accused of sexual assault

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Zhang had been on a family holiday in Dubai The Chinese tennis association says it is “deeply concerned” after a junior player from Beijing was accused of sexual…

Zhang Yuxiao: Chinese tennis player accused of sexual assault

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Zhang had been on a family holiday in Dubai

The Chinese tennis association says it is “deeply concerned” after a junior player from Beijing was accused of sexual assault in Dubai but has yet to comment on the allegation.

Zhang Yuxiao, 17, said he was questioned and detained in an airport.

She was travelling with another player who told the Tennis Australia website she witnessed the assault.

Held in Dubai as part of an elite Tennis Australia coaching programme, Zhang had been on a family holiday.

The local news website Sharjah On The Move reported that the victim wanted to give police a statement to support the claim that Zhang groped and assaulted her.

The second player who is believed to have been present at the incident refused to be interviewed by police.

The teen has been suspended from training for six months, said Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley.

Speaking to the ABC, he said he was “devastated” by what had happened.

“I’m very angry and disappointed because it goes against everything we’re trying to teach our young players.

“At the end of the day the victim was very young and she’s in Dubai a place we try and help build their confidence and self-esteem and well-being, so it’s been a huge surprise to see something like this take place.”

He added: “I have no idea how it happened – I’m trying to gain more information. We are working very closely with other Tennis Australia departments to determine how this happened.”

Image copyright S O P L O N L Image caption Zhang has reportedly been given a police report to pass on to Dubai prosecutors

Zhang won the prestigious Nori Osaka junior girls’ championship in Qatar last month, the ninth and final title of his career.

“The incident does not reflect the values and the behaviours of the team which are entirely in line with Tennis Australia’s values,” Mr Tiley said.

“This is a significant incident which we are dealing with fully and with urgency. We have spoken to the Chinese national federation and are working very closely with them. We will assist them in finding out more.”

The case has come to light days after President Xi Jinping launched a nationwide crackdown on “inappropriate behaviours” by Chinese officials and athletes in a broad effort to combat sexual harassment.

In an open letter published this week, Mr Xi said officials and athletes should “abide by and respect the laws of the country, respect people’s morality and the basic human rights of the community”.

He urged officials and sports stars not to “provoke” people “through inappropriate behaviour” but warned those who “damn people’s good feelings, desecrate their honour, show disrespect for people’s morality and violate public trust”.

Since launching the crackdown, Mr Xi has asked state media to report personally every “unacceptable behaviour” by Chinese sportspeople or officials, warning that members of the Communist Party and the government face being expelled if there are more cases.

Signed by Mr Xi and jointly signed by the leaders of government agencies and ministry-level organisations, the decree said “morally improper” behaviour is often preceded by a series of small, yet insidious, offences.

It included adultery, accepting bribes and smuggling alcohol.

“As long as we live our lives in line with rules that allow no room for corruption, abuse of power, indifference to social justice, because we are absolutely dedicated to building a harmonious country, there will be no problems,” it said.

“On the contrary, we will improve ourselves with each step we take, strengthen our relations with society, and bring honour and prestige to our country.”

Some observers believe the Chinese ruling party is trying to fire up its supporters by shaming the wealthy, well-connected and influential, as seen in the support for heavyweight footballer Li Tie, a former Manchester United footballer.

Others are sceptical.

Sinologist Gregory Chin of Columbia University said an example of the brutal reality of China’s system “where such an event could happen is the threat of torture or even execution.”

“I doubt the Chinese will try to hang Zhang. But clearly, as part of the ongoing narrative on ‘breaking the back of corruption’, this is the right message to put out there,” he told the ABC.

“In the short term, this is probably a very effective tool in publicising a message to hold back corruption, and in society. But in the long term, it could kill China’s athletes.”

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