Sunday, July 3, 2022

WTA demands investigation into Peng Shuai’s disappearance after sexual assault claims against China politician

Peng Shuai, a tennis star from China, has not been publicly seen or heard from since accusing a former senior figure in the Chinese  government of sexual assault on Nov. 2. Peng, 35, posted that former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli, 75, pressured her into sex. The post was taken down by the country’s internet censors, but not before going viral.

In Peng’s claims, she wrote that Zhang sexually assaulted her after inviting her to play tennis with him and his wife, according to The Guardian.

“I never consented that afternoon, crying all the time,” she wrote in the post.

Peng also wrote that she is committed to exposing what she says took place.

“Like an egg hitting a rock, or a moth to the flame, courting self-destruction, I’ll tell the truth about you,” Peng wrote.

Following the removal of that post, other references to Peng were also scrubbed from China’s internet. Peng’s silence since Nov. 2 has caught the attention of Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) chair and chief executive Steve Simon, who has asked for a “full, fair and transparent” investigation into the matter from China’s government.

Here’s what Simon said, via The Guardian:

“The recent events in China concerning a WTA player, Peng Shuai, are of deep concern. Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored. Her accusation about the conduct of a former Chinese leader involving a sexual assault must be treated with the utmost seriousness.”

Simon said the WTA was told by multiple sources, including the Chinese Tennis Association (CTA), that Peng was “safe and not under any physical threat,” but she still has not been heard from since publishing the accusations on Nov. 2. Simon said that, to his knowledge, she was in Beijing but has not been able to confirm her whereabouts.

He added that the WTA, despite not having any control over what China is doing about the situation, is “not going to back off this position.”

Others from around the tennis world are also voicing their concerns for Peng. 

Former world singles No. 1 Chris Evert said, “I’ve known Peng since she was 14; we should all be concerned. This is serious; where is she? Is she safe? Any information would be appreciated. She added that the the situation is “disturbing.”

Billie Jean King wrote, “Hoping that Peng Shuai is found safe and that her accusations are fully investigated.”

Peng was the doubles Wimbledon champion in 2013 and at also won at the French Open one year later. She was the world number one doubles player in 2014 and made history in China as the first Chinese player to achieve that No. 1 ranking. 

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