Missing star Peng Shuai attends tennis event. WTA rejects claims
Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who went missing after she accused former vice-premier, Zhang Gaoli, of sexual assault, attended a tennis tournament in Beijing on Sunday, as per videos posted by the state media on Sunday. The latest videos show Peng standing among guests at the Fila Kids Junior Tennis Challenger Finals. However, the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) is still not convinced.
Why does this story matter?
The whereabouts of the Chinese tennis star have been a matter of international concern. World tennis bodies have voiced concerns regarding the same. No one has heard from Peng after she made allegations of sexual assault against Zhang, in a lengthy statement on Weibo. Although the Chinese media has released videos that show Peng, the evidence remains insufficient as per the WTA.
WATCH: The latest videos of Peng
Footage doesn't address the concerns: WTA
Another video released on Twitter by Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of China's state-run newspaper, the Global Times, shows Peng getting introduced at a youth tennis match in Beijing. However, a WTA spokesperson said the footage was "insufficient". Steve Simon, the CEO of the WTA, said, "While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions."
What is the matter?
On November 2, Peng, through a statement, revealed that she and Zhang had an on-off "extramarital relationship". As per the post, Zhang had stopped contacting Peng after he rose to prominence in the Communist party. She highlighted that Zhang once invited her to play tennis with him where he and his wife sexually assaulted Peng. Ever since the whereabouts of Peng remain unknown.
Chinese government hasn't commented on the case
The Chinese government, as well as Zhang, have been silent on this matter so far. They are yet to speak out publicly. The sensors in China had deleted Peng's post in less than 30 minutes, however, it went viral. On this, The Guardian reported, "censors clamped down, blocking keywords like tennis, disabling comments on Peng's account, and removing references to her from China's internet."
Simon had dismissed claims of receiving mail from Peng
Earlier this week, China's state-run English-language broadcaster, CGTN, claimed that Peng had sent a mail to Simon, stating, "The news in that [WTA press] release, including the allegation of sexual assault, is not true. I'm not missing, nor I am unsafe. I've been resting at home and everything is fine." However, the WTA boss dismissed these claims later on.
How has the tennis fraternity reacted?
On Friday, the head of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) stated that he will pull the tournaments out of China if Peng remains untraceable. Simon told CNN that he is willing to lose business in the China market in order to ensure Peng's safety. Several other tennis stars, including Serena Williams, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic, have also raised concerns.
Peng Shuai is a two-time Grand Slam champion
Peng Shuai is a two-time Grand Slam champion in women's doubles. She won Wimbledon in 2013 along with Hsieh Su-wei, while the duo overcame Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci to win the 2014 French Open. In the same year, Peng reached the semi-final of the US Open (singles). Her last appearance in a Grand Slam tournament was at the Australian Open in 2020.