On Nov. 2, a social media account belonging to Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai published a post that accused a former leader within China’s Communist party, Zhang Gaoli, of sexual assault. In the post, Peng wrote, “I was so scared that afternoon … I never gave consent, crying the entire time.”
The post was quickly taken down, but not before it went viral and became the talk of the tennis world.
But now, over a month after the accusation was posted, Peng is denying ever saying that she was sexually assaulted. Peng was seen in a video published Sunday saying as much to the Lianhe Zaobao Chinese-language newspaper. She was interviewed at a promotional event for the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympic Games.
Here’s what Peng said, according to the Associated Press:
“First of all, I want to emphasize something that is very important. I have never said that I wrote that anyone sexually assaulted me. I need to emphasize this point very clearly.”
Peng said she has mostly been spending time at home in Beijing, but is free to come and go whenever she would like — which is notable because her safety and freedom was called into question after the social media post containing the sexual assault allegation was taken down and she was not seen or heard from for weeks.
After the initial post in early November, other references to Peng were also scrubbed from China’s internet and the tennis world began to demand proof she was safe. Athletes expressed their concern and the Women’s Tennis Association suspended all events in China indefinitely and demanded an independent investigation.
Amid the public concerns from those around the world of tennis, Chinese state media released footage of Peng being interviewed on Nov. 20. One day later, the International Olympic Committee announced that IOC president Thomas Bach had a video call with Peng and she claimed she was safe.