Peng Shuai latest: China denies knowledge of missing tennis player as state media lashes out at WTA

Peng has not been seen in public since the beginning of this month

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Saturday 20 November 2021 01:02
Comments
Peng Shuai: Concerns for Chinese tennis star after sexual assault allegations

The Chinese government has claimed it is “not aware” of the controversy around Peng Shuai amid growing internaional concern over the welfare of the tennis star.

Peng has not been seen in public since she accused former vice premier of China Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault in a social media post on 2 November.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Friday said the matter was “not a diplomatic question and I’m not aware of the situation”. The ministry has claimed that they were unaware of the issue since the tennis star made the allegations.

The 35-year-old in a social media post on Chinese social media platform Weibo shared that she had been forced to have sex with Zhang Gaoli, a vice premier of the Communist party, despite repeated refusals three years ago. The post was taken down soon after it was posted.

Mr Zhao’s comment comes on the heels of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) announcement that it was prepared to pull their tournaments out of China if they are not satisfied with the response to the sexual assault allegation.

“We’re definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it. Because this is certainly, this is bigger than the business. Women need to be respected and not censored,” WTA chief executive Steve Simon told CNN.

He also questioned the authenticity of an email, a screenshot of which was tweeted by Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. The email was reportedly intended for him in which Peng said she was safe and that the assault allegation was untrue.

The WTA has been focusing on China for expansion and hosted nine tournaments in the country in the 2019 season.

The former top-ranked player in women’s doubles, Peng won titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014. She has also participated in three Olympics, making her disappearance a prominent issue ahead of the Winter Olympics, which will be held in Beijing in February.

Her disappearance seems sure to increase pressure on China ahead of the games. Global rights groups have called for a boycott of the Games because of Beijing’s human rights track record over the treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority.

Hu Xijin, the editor of the state-run Global Times newspaper, wrote a rebuttal to Mr Simon on Twitter.

“Don't use a coercive tone when expressing any concern to China,” he said in a tweet. “Perhaps you did it out of goodwill. But you should understand China, including understanding how the system you dislike has promoted the actual rights of the 1.4 billion Chinese,” he added.

The hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai has so far racked up millions of mentions on social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, even as the topic is banned from discussion on Chinese platforms.

Tennis greats Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Billie Jean King have all added their voices to the growing chorus of those concerned about the welfare of the Chinese tennis star.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in