An email purportedly penned by tennis star Peng Shuai declaring she’s neither missing nor unsafe emerged via the Twitter account of Chinese state-run platform CGTN on Wednesday.
Curveball: The email, which also backpedals on Peng’s previous allegations of sexual assault against China’s former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, was reportedly sent to the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Chairman and CEO Steve Simon, CNN reported.
Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has sent an email to Steve Simon, the WTA Chairman & CEO, CGTN has learned. The email reads: pic.twitter.com/uLi6Zd2jDI
— CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) November 17, 2021
- “Regarding the recent news released on the official website of the WTA, the content has not been confirmed or verified by myself and it was released without my consent,” the email read. “The news in that release, including the allegation of sexual assault, is not true. I’m not missing, nor am I unsafe. I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine.”
- Simon confirmed receiving the letter but said he found it difficult to believe “that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email.”
- The WTA was among the first to urge China for an investigation after the 35-year-old tennis star made her accusations against Zhang and then disappeared from public view, NextShark previously reported.
- Noting that the CGTN report made him more worried about her safety, Simon reiterated his previous call to have Peng’s allegations “investigated with full transparency and without censorship.”
- “The statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts,” he wrote in a statement. “I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her.”
What happened: Before Peng’s alleged disappearance, she took to social media on Nov. 2 and recounted how Zhang, 75, coerced her into having sex with him three years ago.
- Zhang, who retired as vice premier in 2018, was also a senior member of the highly influential Politburo Standing Committee from 2012 to 2017.
- Peng wrote: “I couldn’t describe how disgusted I was, and how many times I asked myself am I still a human? I feel like a walking corpse.”
- Her post was immediately removed and discussions on the topic were scrubbed off social media.
— 巴丢草 Badiucao💉💉 (@badiucao) November 2, 2021
Peng has since earned support from fellow female tennis players, with legends Billie Jean King and Chris Evert both expressing concern about her wellbeing as soon as the story broke. On Tuesday, superstar athlete Naomi Osaka also called for Peng’s protection, saying: “Censorship is never OK at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and OK. I’m in shock [at]of the current situation, and I’m sending love and light her way.”