Mr. Zhang, an economist by training, moved through the ranks of the Communist Party and the government to reach his current position. He served as governor of Shandong, a coastline province, and subsequently as party secretary in Tianjin, a provincial-level port city on the Bohai Sea, where he now resides. In his capacity as vice premier from 2013 to 2018, he served on the Politburo Standing Committee, which was chaired at the time by China’s leader, Xi Jinping, and continues to do so today.
According to Ms. Peng’s statement on her Facebook page, “I know that for someone of your eminence, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, you’ve said that you’re not frightened,” but “even if it’s just me, like an egg hitting the rock, or a moth to a flame, courting self-destruction, I’ll reveal the truth about you.”
Women in China’s media, in colleges, and in the commercial sector have all come out with allegations of sexual assault and harassment, only to be met with resistance in the courts and restriction on the internet in the process.
The patriarchal practise of exploiting positions of authority in business or government to acquire sexual favours from subordinates or other women, many women claim, still exists in China. In 2016, the nation’s top prosecuting agency identified the exchange of “power for sex irresponsibly” as one of six characteristics shared by prominent officials convicted of corruption in the country.
Ms. Peng’s accuser in another high-profile harassment case, Zhou Xiaoxuan, took to social media to show sympathy for Ms. Peng, demonstrating how far the allegation spread despite the government’s attempts to suppress it. “I hope she’s safe and sound,” she said in her message to him.
Ms. Zhou, who in 2018 accused a major television anchor of sexual harassment four years earlier, emerged as a pioneer of China’s budding #MeToo movement, as well as a victim of the social and legal obstacles that women who come forward confront in the country’s conservative society. In September, a Beijing court determined that she had “presented inadequate evidence” to support her claim of slander against a television news caster, Zhu Jun, who had sued her for defamation.