BEIJING (AP) — The head of the women’s professional tennis tour questioned the legitimacy of what Chinese state media said was a retraction by a Grand Slam doubles champion who has accused a former top government official of sexual assault.
WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon said Wednesday that a statement attributed to Peng Shuai and tweeted out by CGTN, the international arm of Chinese state broadcaster CCTV — which said it contained the contents of an email she wrote to Simon — “only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts.”
Peng is a 35-year-old from China and a former No. 1-ranked player in women’s doubles who won titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014.
She wrote in a lengthy social media post earlier this month that a former vice premier and member of the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee had forced her to have sex despite repeated refusals.
The post was removed from her verified account on Weibo, a leading Chinese social media platform, and the country’s state-controlled media has suppressed all reporting on the case.
Simon called Sunday for a full investigation and demanded that Peng not be censored. Those expressing concern about the case and Peng’s safety also have included ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi and four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka.
A statement attributed to Peng by CGTN on Wednesday included a reference to her allegation being “not true.”
As the overseas arm of state broadcaster CCTV, CGTN is among the numerous propaganda tools wielded by the ruling Communist Party in an attempt to sway foreign opinion. It has been sanctioned on numerous occasions by British TV regulator Ofcom for airing forced confessions by a British businessman, a Hong Kong bookseller and an employee of the UK consulate in Hong Kong.
“I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her,” Simon said. “Peng Shuai displayed incredible courage in describing an allegation of sexual assault against a former top official in the Chinese government. The WTA and the rest of the world need independent and verifiable proof that she is safe. I have repeatedly tried to reach her via numerous forms of communications, to no avail.”
Simon’s statement, released by the WTA, continued: “Peng Shuai must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source. Her allegation of sexual assault must be respected, investigated with full transparency and without censorship. The voices of women need to be heard and respected, not censored nor dictated to.”
Peng wrote that Zhang Gaoli forced her to have sex despite repeated refusals following a round of tennis three years ago. She said Zhang’s wife guarded the door during the incident.
Her post also said they had sex once seven years ago and she had feelings for him after that.
As is usual for retired Chinese officials, the 75-year-old Zhang dropped from public sight after his retirement in 2018 and is not known to have any intimate professional or political connections to current leaders.
Peng won 23 tour-level doubles titles and was a singles semifinalist at the 2014 U.S Open. She hasn’t competed on tour since the Qatar Open in February 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic forced tennis to take a hiatus.
Peng also participated in three Olympics. The International Olympic Committee and China are organizing the Beijing Winter Games starting Feb. 4; the IOC said Wednesday that it has seen news reports about Peng and is in touch with the International Tennis Federation.
Her accusation was the first against a prominent government official since the #MeToo movement took hold in China in 2018 before being largely tamped down by authorities the same year.
In response to a question at Wednesday’s daily briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said he had no knowledge of Peng’s situation.
‘Frantic race backwards’ for China media freedoms: Report – Al Jazeera English
Reporters Without Borders says at least 127 journalists are detained in China, as Beijing takes ever harsher line on media freedoms.
At least 127 journalists – from major international news outlets to bloggers – are currently detained in China as the Chinese Communist Party continues a major crackdown on media initiated by President Xi Jinping, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has said in a new report.
China now ranks 177 out of 180 in the media watchdog’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index, two slots above North Korea, thanks to a sweeping campaign to limit free expression across every sector of society.
In the report, published on Tuesday, Secretary General Christophe Deloire described China as a country in the midst of a “ frantic race backwards” as Chinese citizens continue to lose press freedom.
Chinese journalists and writers have become a target of the campaign and face charges such as espionage, subversion and “picking quarrels”. They include whistleblowers like Zhang Zhan, a Chinese lawyer who last year was sentenced to four years in prison for documenting the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, and Cheng Lei, an Australian Chinese anchor at Chinese state media outlet CGTN who was formally arrested in February and accused of supplying state secrets overseas.
Prior to their formal arrest, many detained journalists may spend up to six months under “residential surveillance at a designated location (RSDL),” according to the media group. Institutionalised in China in 2012, the practice allows authorities to hold an individual in solitary confinement and constant supervision at a designated facility. The practice is frequently described as “torture” by those who have experienced it.
Cheng was detained in August 2020 and reportedly underwent RSDL before she was formally charged six months later. Her trial and sentencing have yet to be announced.
Nearly two-thirds of journalists detained in China are Uighurs, according to RSF, many of whom helped to raise the alarm about China’s campaign of repression against the Muslim ethnic minority and other groups in the far western region of Xinjiang. Uighur journalists and bloggers appear to face harsher sentences than their Han Chinese counterparts, like Ilham Tohti, an economist and founder of the website Uyghur Online who was sentenced to life in prison for “separatism” in 2014.
Affiliation with major news outlets or second citizenship in a Western country has also failed to protect Chinese journalists, who under Chinese law can only work as “news assistants” for foreign media.
The release of the report coincided with the first anniversary of the detention of Haze Fan, a news assistant for New York-based Bloomberg News, who was taken away by plain-clothes police officers in Beijing last year. On Tuesday, Bloomberg’s editor-in-chief John Micklethwait said the media group was “very worried about her well-being” after 12 months of detention.
In a bid to control Chinese journalists in the future, the report noted, Chinese journalists are required to download an app “Study Xi, Strengthen the Country,” which can download their personal data, while they will soon have to undergo 90 hours of ideological training each year to renew their press card.
While the country has never been known as an easy place to report from, foreign journalists say that conditions in China have become more challenging in recent years and even more so under COVID-19 regulations, according to surveys by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China. In 2020, 18 foreign journalists were forced to leave China due to deteriorating diplomatic relations between China, the United States and Australia.
China’s crackdown has also extended into Hong Kong, a former British colony once considered one of the most open places in Asia.
The territory is the regional headquarters of media organisations including CNN, AFP and Reuters due to its formerly high level of press freedom.
Following months of democracy protests in 2019 and the imposition of national security legislation, Hong Kong media has also found itself under attack, RSF said.
One of the highest profile cases was the closure of pro-democracy news outlet Apple Daily and the arrest of its founder Jimmy Lai, who is facing life imprisonment for “colluding with foreign forces” under the terms of the new legislation.
Six additional Apple Daily employees are also in detention, including the newspaper’s former chief editor and several writers.
How to Make Your WordPress Site Run Faster?
If you are struggling with a slow WordPress website, you are not alone! WordPress is the most popular CMS and currently powers over 40% of all the websites around the world. However, many Canadian WordPress users notice that their webpages are taking too long to load, or their media does not pop up promptly. Luckily, there are many ways to increase the speed of your site without compromising the quality of the content.
How to Determine Website Speed
There are many free online speed tools available for anyone to use. All you must do is copy your website’s URL and paste it into one of these tools. Another thing you can do is ask your friends and family to test out the site. Listen to their constructive criticism, as they will tell you if they feel that the loading time is too long.
Ideally, you are aiming for the quickest speeds possible. On average, a web page should load within 1-2 seconds. Once you hit 3 seconds, you run the risk of losing about half of your virtual traffic.
Methods of Increasing Speed
Use a Caching Plugin
WordPress offers thousands of different plugins to improve the efficiency of your site. Some of these are necessary for the site to function, while others are simply nice to have. Installing a caching plugin might be the answer to solving your slow loading speeds.
When visitors access your site, WordPress needs to locate all the script and then transfer it to their browser. When visitors are abundant to one website, this process can become very backlogged. Caching involves storing the website files in a temporary location on the visitor’s browser. When they return to the site, WordPress will not need to load the entire script, saving time.
Invest in a Good Web Host Provider
When people first create their website, they may be tempted to purchase a hosting plan that is as cheap as possible. This can be a big mistake, as poor hosting can lead to virtual security breaches and slow, unresponsible websites. Instead, take the time to research reputable web hosting companies that can provide you with the plan you need.
Many companies offer specific plans for people looking for WordPress hosting in Canada. A WordPress hosting plan is completely optimized for your platform. This includes additional tools such as enhanced security features, automatic updates, quick setups, and access to customer support agents who are WordPress experts.
Perform Regular Updates
As a website owner, you will need to keep an eye out for required updates. Since WordPress is open-source, this means that it frequently requires new updates. Elements such as themes and plugins will also need to be kept up to date to ensure that they are fully optimized.
If you allow your website to remain out of date, there is an increased security risk. Partially due to its large scale, WordPress is a popular target for hackers and other people with nefarious intentions. Remaining left behind with older versions of WordPress will leave you exposed to weaknesses that hackers are probably well-aware of.
Implement Excerpts Rather Than Full Text
For many websites, but especially blogs, people will have multiple web pages with different discussion topics. On your homepage, WordPress will automatically showcase full paragraphs from all your different pages. This is detrimental to you because your homepage will load slower, and viewers will not be as tempted to click through your other pages.
To avoid this, you can change the settings so that only short summaries of the articles appear on your homepage. This will encourage viewers to click into the article to get the whole story, and your loading speed will improve. You can change this through “Settings – Reading”, and then choose the option “For each article in a feed, show: Summary.”
Consider Using a Content Delivery Network
A content delivery network, or CDN for short, is when a collection of worldwide servers stores your site’s static files. The purpose of this is to reduce the distance between your virtual visitor and the server. When a visitor accesses your site, they will receive the files from the server in their city or the nearest alternative.
Using a CDN also reduces a website’s downtime, as there will constantly be a redistribution between servers if one goes down.
Instagram, ahead of U.S. Senate hearing, tightens teen protection measures
Instagram said on Tuesday it will be stricter about the types of content it recommends to teens in the photo-sharing app and will nudge them toward different areas if they dwell on one topic for a long time.
In a blog post, the social media service announced a slew of changes for teen users. Instagram head Adam Mosseri is to testify in a congressional hearing on Wednesday about protecting kids online.
Instagram and its parent company Meta Platforms Inc, formerly Facebook, have been under scrutiny over ways their services could cause issues around the mental health, body image and online safety of younger users.
In the post, Mosseri also said Instagram was switching off the ability for people to tag or mention teens who do not follow them on the app. He said that starting in January, teen Instagram users would be able to bulk delete their content and previous likes and comments.
He said Instagram was exploring controls to limit potentially harmful or sensitive material suggested to teens through its search function, hashtags, short-form video Reels and its ‘Suggested Accounts’ feature, as well as on its curated ‘Explore’ page.
The blog post also said that on Tuesday, Instagram was launching its ‘Take a Break’ feature in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, which reminds people to take a brief pause from the app after using it for a certain amount of time.
It said Instagram in March next year would launch its first tools for parents and guardians to see how much time their teens spend on the app and set time limits.
Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn criticized the company’s product announcement as “hollow,” saying in a statement: “Meta is attempting to shift attention from their mistakes by rolling out parental guides, use timers, and content control features that consumers should have had all along.”
An Instagram spokeswoman said it would continue its pause on plans for a version of Instagram for kids. Instagram suspended plans for the project in September amid growing opposition to the project.
The move followed a Wall Street Journal report that said internal documents, leaked by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen, showed the company knew Instagram could have harmful mental health effects on teenage girls, for example on their views of body image. Facebook has said the leaked documents have been used to paint a false picture of the company’s work.
State attorneys general and lawmakers had also raised concerns about the kids-focused app.
Last month, a bipartisan coalition of U.S. state attorneys general said it had opened a probe of Meta for promoting Instagram to children despite potential harms.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford in New York; Editing by David Gregorio and Dan Grebler)
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