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CNN Coverage of Peng Shuai Assault Allegations Censored; China Wrestling to Control Peng Shuai Assault Narrative; U.S. Embassy Warns of Unusual Activity Near Borders; Thieves Target High-End U.S. Retail Stores; Merkel Receives Her Last Chancellery Christmas Tree. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired November 25, 2021 - 04:30   ET




ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT, CNN NEWSROOM: Welcome back, CNN Newsroom. I'm Isa Soares. If you're just joining us, let me bring you up to date with our top stories this hour. Three white men in the U.S. State of Georgia have been found guilty of murdering a black man Ahmaud Arbery was jogging when he was chased shot and killed last year.

The three men were arrested months after the crime when video of the killing was released. A desperate journey ends in death, but 27 migrants when the boat there --there were in capsized in the English Channel.

It is believed to be the worst disaster involving migrants trying to cross the narrow waterway in recent years. CNN of course will continue to bring you the latest developments on both those stories throughout the day here.

While CNN continues to cover the story of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai. Our coverage is being censored in China every step of the way. Peng disappeared from the public eye for more than two weeks after alleging she was sexually assaulted by one of China's most senior communist leaders. CNN's Will Ripley reports.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): You can see that as soon as you started talking about this story, Aaron, it went to color bars. When China's Communist rulers don't like the message--

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This broadcast is not being aired in China is being censored.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They silence the messenger.

RIPLEY (voice over): They have an army of censors waiting to push that button.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't want the people there to see us. RIPLEY (voice over): CNN coverage of tennis star Peng Shuai blocked inside China.

JENNIFER HSU, RESEARCH FELLOW, LOWY INSTITUTE: It really tries to control the story control the narrative.

RIPLEY (voice over): Controlling the narrative means scrubbing social media. Peng's explosive posts on November 2, accusing a retired Chinese leader of sexual assault erased within 30 minutes. Look for the story on China's leading search engine.

You get this message, "sorry no relevant results found". The scandal so politically sensitive, a high profile state propagandist referred to it on Twitter as the thing people talked about.

Inside China state media staying silent. No mentioned in the Mainland's TV or digital media. Outside those news outlets eagerly tweeting updates and images of Peng in English on a platform blocked in their own country.


RIPLEY (voice over): And irony not lost on millions following the story outside China. Some even mocking the state media tweets, Peng is seen smiling, but not talking at a tennis tournament, having dinner with friends and a trainee sports official, who just so happens to mention the exact date several times.

CNN has no way to independently verify these videos, or this email supposedly from Peng to the head of the Women's Tennis Association last week, claiming everything is fine, a computer cursor visible in this apparent screenshot. The head of the WTA telling out front, he's not convinced.

STEVE SIMON, CHAIRMAN & CEO, WOMEN'S TENNIS ASSOCIATION: I'm just struggling to agree to that and don't believe that's the truth at all.

RIPLEY (voice over): The WTA demanding direct uncensored communication with Peng, the organizations repeated calls and messages to the tennis star unanswered.

HSU: China is well known for coercing statements to show that everything is fine.

RIPLEY (voice over): China's narrative bolstered by the International Olympic Committee, the IOC handed out this single image of a video called Sunday, along with a statement summarizing the call, claiming Peng is safe and well, totally ignoring her painfully detailed allegation of sexual assault.

With billions of dollars in ad revenue on the line, critics called the IOC complicit in China's apparent silencing of a three time Olympian who many fear is being held under duress, censored by China's authoritarian government, which blames hostile forces for politicizing the issue. When CNN goes to the next story, our signal returns. As China waits for the news cycle to move on, the pressure keeps growing, the world keeps demanding answers.


RIPLEY: And you can see it right now live real time Chinese censorship because every time we start talking about this story, the minute he said that you started talking within about three seconds or so the color bars reappeared, and they have actually stepped up the censorship.

They're now also censoring our ticker at the bottom of the screen. If the ticker starts to talk about Peng Shuai, the color bars are going up again.

SOARES: And so our viewer's just if they're watching, this is what is coming out and Chinese TV that actually are actually being censored. And Will, I'm not sure if you're still with us.

This pressure, this new cycle, like you were saying, you know, it keeps going keep focusing on Peng Shuai, has that pressure made any difference at all pressure from the media pressure from government pressure from WTA, and other organizations, as that made any difference at all?

RIPLEY: Experts, we've spoken with Isa have said that if this pressure were not being applied, it is very likely that Peng Shuai could have been silenced and disappeared and possibly be away for months, re educated, if you will, or worse.

This is what happens inside China, when people aren't watching. And it's been happening for a very long time for decades as a matter of fact. Whenever somebody dares to speak out as a voice of dissent, or does something that could be perceived as an embarrassment or create a scandal for the top party leadership, they're out.

So in the case of Peng Shuai the fact that she is being shown in these, which look like to be pretty deliberately choreographed videos just to prove that she's OK.

It shows that China is listening and responding to the global pressure, but what they're not doing is allowing her to actually speak freely and communicate directly in an uncensored unfiltered way with the Women's Tennis Association or with foreign journalists.

And that's why these calls continue whether or not China will actually heed those calls. Most experts I've spoken with Isa say, it's pretty unlikely they're just going to sit around and wait and hope this dies down. Meanwhile, Peng Shuai still believe to be possibly being held under duress.

SOARES: And I know you'll stay on top of the story for us. Will Ripley for us there. Thanks very much, Will, good to see you.

While Australia's sending police and Defense personnel to help authorities and Solomon Islands deal with violent protests, demonstrators set fire to buildings in the capitol for a second day as you can see their despite a lockdown being ordered, protesters from the lighter province reportedly feel overlooked by the national government.

A citizen's petition filed in August called for the government to respect the rights of self determination of the light - Malaita people to limit ties with China and to resume development in projects in Malaita.

Well, the U.S. Embassy in Kiev is warning of unusual military activity along Russia's border with Ukraine and Crimea. It says security conditions could change without notice.

Satellite images you can see that appear to show Russia gathering close to 100,000 troops along with tanks and military hardware in the region, meanwhile Ukraine is launching a special operation along its border with Belarus.


SOARES: It's aimed at preventing a migrant crisis similar to the one that erupt if you remember between Belarus and Poland about a week or so ago. Now, a bombing in the Somali capital has killed at least eight civilians and wounded 17 others.

Please tell state media suicide car bomb went off near two schools. And that 13 children are among the injured. It is believed the target was an armored vehicle associated with the United Nations, according to police under Somali National News Agency.

Now Ethiopia's Prime Minister is reportedly directing troops on the frontlines of his country's civil war with Tigrayan rebels. But we have yet to see any images of that.

CNN's David McKenzie is tracking this live from Johannesburg and so, good morning, David. So, so far no images that he's actually gone to the frontlines. Where are we on the diplomatic front? Why has it failed to actually move at all, pressure at all, on the government there?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is a huge question, because at this stage that you don't get much optimism from diplomats that this can actually be solved, or de escalated very easily. And the proof of that Isa, is what foreign nations are doing.

The UK and the EU has said that the citizens should get out of the country while they can out of the commercial airport there in case the situation does deteriorate rapidly.

You have the U.S. government several sources telling CNN they've stationed special operation forces in Djibouti neighboring Djibouti in case there is a need to evacuate people out. So those signs show that this is a very serious situation, indeed.

And also, I think the fact that state media is touting the fact that the Prime Minister is on the front lines, as you say no images yet of that. He is a former soldier Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. I don't think the irony is last in anyone that he is marshaling the troops directly, supposedly, though he is a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

But that is less of a concrete way of sort of marshalling the troops and more a propaganda effort, I think, to rally up people in Addis Ababa and elsewhere to join the fight to volunteer to push back the rebels which have been encroaching on the Capitol in recent weeks.

The state of the military plays very unclear at the moment the national forces, the federal forces of Ethiopia have been dispirited and gathered say analysts through the many months of this campaign and many of the Tigrayan ethnic, Tigrayans in senior leadership purged from there.

So it's unclear how this will go in the next few days and weeks, but most people I'm speaking to believe there could be a very intractable conflict if some kind of peaceful solution is not found. Isa?

SOARES: That is indeed the fair, David McKenzie for us there in Johannesburg. Thanks very much, David. Now, former U.S. President Donald Trump is calling a teenager who shot people dead during protests, a really nice young man, details and the meeting at Mar-a- Lago up next.



SOARES: Now the teenager quitted a fatally shooting two people during a racial justice protests last year has become a darling of the far right. And now it seems the former U.S. president is among his fans. CNN's Brian Todd reports on a meeting at Mar-a-Lago.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The way Donald Trump tells it Kyle Rittenhouse just happened to be in the neighborhood.

DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: Kyle, I got to know him a little bit he called he wanted to know if he could come over and say hello because he was a fan.

TODD (voice over): So the former president told Sean Hannity on Fox, he welcomed Rittenhouse and his mother to Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

TRUMP: Came over with his mother, really a nice young man.

TODD (voice over): That was just a few days after the 18 year old was acquitted of all charges in the fatal shootings of two people and the wounding of a third during last year's protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Trump played the role of legal analyst supporting Rittenhouse's claim of self defense.

TRUMP: That was prosecutorial misconduct; he should not have had to suffer through a trial for that he was going to be dead. If he didn't pull that trigger, Kyle would have been dead.

TODD (voice over): But even Trump didn't gush over Rittenhouse as blatantly as Fox host Tucker Carlson did in Rittenhouse's first interview since his acquittal.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS CHANNEL HOST: How Rittenhouse struck us as bright, decent, sincere, dutiful and hardworking, exactly the kind of person you'd want many more of in your country.

TODD (voice over): For his part, Rittenhouse said he was simply trying to protect businesses from rioters.

KYLE RITTENHOUSE, ACQUITTED OF MURDER CHARGES IN KENOSHA, WISCONSIN: Kenosha is my community. And I just was upset saying my community up in flames.

TODD (voice over): Rittenhouse is being hailed as a hero in other corners of the far right with Republican Congress members Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert and Madison Cawthorn competing with each other to possibly offer Rittenhouse internships on Capitol Hill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kyle Rittenhouse will probably make a pretty good congressional intern.

LAUREN BOEBERT, U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICAN: Madison Cawthorn, he said that he would arm wrestle me for this Kyle Rittenhouse internship. But Madison Cawthorn has some pretty big guns, and so I would like to challenge him to a sprint instead.

TODD (voice over): Congressman Cawthorn uses a wheelchair. Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is also jumping in, pushing a bill to award Rittenhouse a Congressional Gold Medal which has been bestowed on people like George Washington, Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill and the Wright Brothers.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, THE WASHINGTON POST: He stands as an icon on the far right as someone who pushed back against the Black Lives Matter movement. And he stands as someone who sort of stands for gun rights because he was open carrying during a protest and he used his gun in a violent way. It was in the minds of many people on the right and attack on their version of America.


TODD: In the Carlson interview, Kyle Rittenhouse said the incidents that led to his prosecution never had anything to do with race and that he supports the Black Lives Matter movement.

He's also hinting at possible legal action against people who've implied that he's a white supremacist like then candidate Joe Biden did in a tweet last year. Rittenhouse now saying that was actual malice and defamed his character. Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

SOARES: Now some brazen thieves in the U.S. are targeting high end stores and the string of smash and grab burglaries. Please say an Apple store in Santa Rosa California was the latest target for crooks raided in broad daylight on Wednesday, you can see that right in front of customers and staff.

The feets got away with $20,000 excuse me, in merchandise stores and some other cities have fallen victim to similar crimes in recent days. This comes just as source prepare for the U.S. Christmas shopping season which traditionally of course begins on Friday after today's Thanksgiving holiday.


SOARES: Ahead a Thanksgiving tradition returns, we'll explain what will be different from last year at the Macy's Thanksgiving parade in New York, the big events gets on the way. Just a few hours from now we'll explain all, next.


SOARES: Now you could say a National Hockey League team should have gotten the delay of game penalty. The Minnesota Wild were on their way to play the New Jersey Devils last night.

But a major tunnel was closed and the Wild got stuck in New York traffic and that falls the game I knew was Prudential enough to be pushed back by half an hour delay game, a real infraction usually results in a two minute penalty, but no one was sent to penalty box, just the Wild is edged the devil's three to two.

Now Germany's getting the holiday spirit as well as its leader prepares to pass the torch, have a look at this.


SOARES (voice over): On Wednesday, a German Chancellor Angela Merkel there received the chancellery official Christmas tree for the last time. Merkel successes social democrat Olaf Schultz is likely to be sworn into office next month for giving the Colorado pine, a chance to see how the two leaders work.


ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR: This tree will experience two German governments and acting one in the new one, something not many Christmas trees have seen. But I think the Colorado tree will like it. Thank you very much.

SOARES (voice over): And Merkel was Germany's first female chancellor and chose to not seek a fifth term in office ending her run in power after 16 years.


SOARES: Now a Thanksgiving traditions returning to pre pandemic form, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will get underway just a few hours from now in New York City.

On Wednesday thousands of people traveled to the city's upper west side to see the parade's giant helium balloons being blown up as you can see that the crowds were not allowed last year because of COVID.

And last year's parade was a TV only event, but today crowds will once again line the streets. Some COVID chain changes will remain in place, notably that children younger than 12 are only allowed as spectators and not participants.

And that is from me, thanks very much for joining. I am Isa Soares for all of you celebrating Thanksgiving, have a wonderful and healthy day, plenty for us to be thankful for. Early start with Christine Romans is next, I shall see you tomorrow. Bye, bye.