The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has expressed concern about the safety and whereabouts of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai after she recently accused a former state leader of sexual assault.
A star athlete’s claims: Peng, the world’s No. 1 doubles player in 2014, alleged in a Nov. 2 Weibo post that former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli had forced her into sex after inviting her to dinner with him and his wife three years ago, NextShark previously reported.
- The 35-year-old athlete said she ended up entering an on-off consensual relationship with the 75-year-old former politician.
- Zhang, who was also a former member of the highly influential Politburo Standing Committee, allegedly insisted that their affair remain a secret.
- Peng shared the revelation after Zhang called off a meeting she set with him earlier this month to “discuss her grievances.”
- “I know I can’t say it all clearly, and that there’s no use in saying it,” she wrote in the now-deleted post. “But I still want to say it.”
- While Peng’s accusations immediately became a trending topic on local social media, the discussions about it were blocked on major platforms the next day.
Peng Shuai has vanished from the public eye ever since she came forward and made her claims. Chinese feminists and #Metoo activists are deeply concerned about her safety. #WhereIsPengShuai pic.twitter.com/Y1l7jA6Jbb
— FreeChineseFeminists (@FeministChina) November 14, 2021
Sudden disappearance: Peng has not been publicly seen or heard from since making the post, prompting mounting concern from fans and fellow international tennis stars.
- In a statement issued on Sunday, WTA CEO and Chairman Steve Simon called for transparency as his organization urged the Chinese government to look into Peng’s allegations.
- Simon told the New York Times that the WTA received “confirmation from several sources, including the Chinese Tennis Association, that she is safe and not under any physical threat.” He pointed out, however, that he has not “been able to reach her directly to confirm her status.”
- “Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored,” Simon was quoted as saying. “Her accusation about the conduct of a former Chinese leader involving a sexual assault must be treated with the utmost seriousness.”
- Twitter account Free Chinese Feminists has posted photos showing digital projections on buildings and bridges in China that show support for the tennis star.
- Famous international tennis players have also expressed concern and support for Peng on social media, including the decorated retired player Billie Jean King and men’s world No. 1 ranked player Novak Djokovic, who called her disappearance “shocking.”
- The hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai began circulating Nov. 14 and has been used thousands of times.
Peng, the first Chinese player to achieve a global top ranking in tennis, has won 23 tour-level doubles titles, one of them being at Wimbledon in 2014.
Featured Image via Women’s Tennis Association (left), CGTN (right)