BEIJING, (AP) -- Peng Shuai's drama follows a familiar plot. Peng Shuai is a character who runs afoul China's Communist government and disappears from public view.
The outcome of each case is different, but it is not unusual for the individual to retract statements or take actions that initially upset officials. Sometimes, they keep a low profile. Sometimes their arrest is announced.
Peng's story began in November when she posted on social media that a former member the party's all powerful Politburo Standing Committee had made her have sex three times in spite of repeated refusals. She also stated that they had sex seven years ago and she felt for him afterwards.
This post was quickly removed and the ex-top-ranked doubles player has since been removed from public view.
She denied to a Singapore newspaper, that she had ever been accused of sexual assault, after she reappeared several weeks later. In an interview published Monday morning by a French newspaper, the tennis player described the entire situation as an "enormous misunderstanding."
Here are some examples of people who have vanished over the years, a phenomenon that has grown since President Xi Jinping's 2013 election:
Ma, founder of Alibaba Group, one of the largest e-commerce companies in the world, was one of the most prominent recent disappearances.
After he criticised regulators for being too conservative in an Oct 2020 speech, Ma, China's most famous entrepreneur, has stopped appearing in public.
Ma's Ant Group was ordered by the government to suspend a planned stock exchange debut in Hong Kong or Shanghai.
Social media users raised questions about whether Ma was detained. Ma's friends claimed that he was not in custody, but decided to remain silent after being criticized for his comments. Ma, normally friendly and voluble, reappeared in January 2021 in a short video that did not mention his absence.
Ma has been absent from sightings since then. His legal status and whereabouts remain a mystery.
Fan is one China's most popular and highest-grossing movie stars. She was on a high note when her star vanished for four months in 2018. Her Weibo account went silent and her Beijing management office was empty.
She finally returned to the surface to express her regret for tax evasion.
Xinhua, the state news agency, reported Fan and her companies had been ordered by the government to pay taxes and penalties of 900 million yuan ($130,000,000).
Fan, who starred in "Iron Man 3", and "X-Men: Days of Future Past," was able to revive her film career with international roles. Although her case wasn't overtly political it was part of a sweeping anti-corruption campaign led by Xi Jinping.
Winter Olympics: Full coverage
Meng, vice minister of security and head Interpol, a France-based organization that facilitates cross-border police cooperation, was reported missing for several weeks in 2018.
Soon, Chinese authorities announced that he was under investigation for accepting bribes and other criminal offenses. This indicated that he was the latest high ranking Chinese official to be caught in Xi’s anti-corruption campaign. It was a move that won the leader of China popular, but was also criticized for being used as cover for the elimination of political rivals.
Meng was finally tried, and is still in prison. Grace Meng, his wife, has maintained for years that the allegations were false and that Meng was expelled because he had been pushing for change from his high-profile position.
Liu was a dissident writer, who was arrested just a day before reforms were announced. His whereabouts remained unknown after his arrest.
He was ultimately accused of subversion and sentenced for 11 years. He was eventually convicted of subversion and sentenced to 11 years in prison. However, he died from cancer shortly before his release. Liu was a long-standing critic of China's government. He had been previously in prison for participating in the 1989 student-led protests at Tiananmen Square, which were crushed by a military crackdown.
WHAT OTHER KINDS DO PEOPLE DISAPPEAR IN?
In recent years, Uyghurs as well as members of other minority groups that are predominantly Muslim have been expelled in what the government calls an effort to combat extremism, separatism, and terrorism.
A total of 1,000,000 men and women were forced into political reeducation camps, which are also known as de-radicalization centers and job training centres.
Some foreigners have also been taken by China.
Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, both Canadians, were taken into custody in China on December 18, 2018, just after Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer at Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, was arrested by Canada. This occurred in response to a U.S. extradition request.
China waited for days to announce their detentions, then denied that they were linked and demanded that Meng be released. After Meng, who is not related to the Interpol chief was allowed to return home to China in an essentially high-level prisoner exchange, both were freed in September.