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Peng Shuai says sexual assault allegation against Communist official ‘enormous misunderstanding’

Peng Shuai denies having accused Chinese official of sexual assault

Maroosha Muzaffar
Monday 07 February 2022 03:49 GMT
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BEIJING-PENG SHUAI
BEIJING-PENG SHUAI (AP)

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai has denied accusing a Chinese Communist Party leader of sexual assault and said global concerns about her wellbeing were based on “an enormous misunderstanding.”

In her first official interview since she made sexual assault allegations against former Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli, Peng said she “never said anyone had sexually assaulted me in any way”.

In November last year, she had accused Mr Zhang of sexually assaulting her when she was in her teens but she deleted the post after 30 minutes. But her followers took screenshots and it was shared widely.

Peng’s allegations had led the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) to suspend tournaments in China, caused international outrage, and sparked massive concerns about her safety.

A source at the International Olympic Committee — Reuters reported — confirmed that Peng had met with President Thomas Bach for dinner on Saturday inside the Winter Olympics bubble in Beijing. The IOC will issue a statement on Peng later on Monday, the report said.

In an interview with the French newspaper L’Equipe at a hotel in Beijing, Peng said: “Firstly, I’d like to thank all of the many ATP and WTA players, sportspeople and leading figures who were worried about me.”

She continued: “I never thought there’d be such worry, though, and I’d like to know, why was that the case?”

“There was a huge misunderstanding in the outside world following this post. I don’t want the meaning of this post to be twisted anymore. And I don’t want any further media hype around it. Sexual assault? I never said anyone had sexually assaulted me in any way,” she said.

Peng also denied having “disappeared” after her post. She said: “I never disappeared. Everyone could see me. I never disappeared.”

Peng continued: “It’s just that many people, like my friends or people from the IOC messaged me, and it was simply impossible to answer so many messages. But I’ve been always in close contact with my close friends.”

“I talked to them, I answered their emails, I also talked with the WTA ... But at the end of the year, the communication IT system of their website was changed and many players had difficulties logging in. But my colleagues and I always stayed in touch. That’s why I don’t know why the news I had disappeared spread,” she said.

Asked about her life since she posted on 2 November she said: “It’s been what it’s supposed to be: nothing special.”

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