Where is Peng Shuai? Chinese tennis star disappears after accusing government official of sexual assault

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, a three-time Olympian who won titles at Wimbledon and Roland Garros, has disappeared from public life after accusing a former senior Chinese Communist Party official of sexual assault.

Now the international community, including tennis players like Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams, and even the United Nations human rights office are pressuring China, whose officials continue to deny any knowledge of the controversy.

Here’s what we know so far:

Peng’s latest social media post

On November 2, Peng wrote an article on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, where she has more than half a million followers, accusing former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault.

She claimed in the now deleted post that she and Zhang, 75, had been in an intermittent relationship for several years, and at times the relationship was consensual, the the Wall Street newspaper reported.

But she also said there were times when Zhang forced herself on her, starting with an assault about three years ago, when she was invited to his home to play tennis with him and her. wife, CBS Sports reported.

“I was so scared that afternoon,” Peng wrote. “I never gave my consent, crying all the time.”

A guard stood guard outside the door while she was assaulted, she said, according to CBS Sports.

“I know that for someone of your stature, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, you said you were not afraid,” Peng wrote. “But even if it’s like throwing an egg against a rock, or I’m like a flame-drawn moth, inviting self-destruction, I’ll tell the truth about you.”

The post disappeared around 20 minutes after she shared it, and Peng’s name was blocked as a search term on Weibo and other Chinese social media platforms.

Peng has not been seen in public since.

Response from the Women’s Tennis Association

About two weeks later, on November 14, WTA President Steve Simon called on Chinese authorities to investigate Peng’s allegations in a statement released by the WTA Tour.

“In all societies, the behavior it claims to have taken place should be investigated, not tolerated or ignored,” he added. declaration read. “We commend Peng Shuai for his remarkable courage and strength in coming forward. All over the world, women are finding their voice so that injustices can be corrected. “

He also said the organization was unable to reach Peng following the accusation, The Wall Street Journal reported.

An email that many believe Peng didn’t write

A few days later, on November 17, Chinese public television broadcast a screenshot of an email they claimed to have sent to Simon, assuring him that all was well.

“Hello everyone, it’s Peng Shuai,” the email begins. “The news in this release, including the sexual assault allegation, is not true. I am not absent and I am not safe. I just had a rest at home and everything is fine.

Simon, however, responded in a statement that he had doubts about who actually wrote the email.

“The statement released today by Chinese state media regarding Peng Shuai only raises my concerns for his safety and fate,” he said in a statement. declaration. “I find it hard to believe that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is attributed to him.”

He kept repeating that he had tried to reach her through many different forms of communication, but had not heard from her.

The presence of the WTA in China in danger

The next day, Simon threatened to withdraw WTA activities from China unless the country confirms Peng’s safety and investigates the allegations against Zhang.

“We are definitely ready to pull our business and face all the complications that come with it,” Simon told CNN. “Because it sure is, it’s bigger than business. Women should be respected and not censored.”

China denies any controversy

On Friday, November 19, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said he was not aware of any concerns about the allegations of Peng’s welfare or sexual assault and said he was not aware of any concerns. This was “not a diplomatic issue and I am not aware of the situation,” according to The Associated Press.

International outrage

The United Nations Human Rights Office is now demanding proof of Peng’s welfare.

“What we would say is that it would be important to have proof of her plight and well-being, and we urge that there be a transparent investigation into her allegations of sexual assault. spokeswoman Liz Throssell told reporters on Friday, according to CNN. “According to the information available, the former world double No.1 has not been heard publicly since she alleged on social media that she was sexually assaulted. We stress that it is important to know where she is and to know his condition, to know about his well-being.

Now what?

Tennis players and athletes around the world have taken to social media to urge Peng’s safe return.

The White House has also expressed concerns over Peng’s disappearance. White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday: “We are deeply concerned by reports that Peng Shuai appears to have disappeared after accusing a former senior official in the PRC (People’s Republic of China) sexual assault. We join the appeals to the authorities of the PRC to provide independent and verifiable proof of her whereabouts and that she is safe, ”said CNN.

And with the Beijing Winter Olympics kicking off in a few months, it’s unclear how Peng’s disappearance will impact the sports community around the world.

United States considers diplomatic boycott of Olympics in light of other human rights violations, including its treatment of Uyghur minority population and crackdown on free speech and the rule of law in Hong Kong President Joe Biden said Thursday. The boycott would mean government officials will not participate, although athletes will not be banned from competing, according to the New York Times.

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