Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai says she was not sexually assaulted

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai said on Sunday that she had never accused anyone of sexually assaulting her, and that a social media post she had made in November had been misunderstood.

“First, I need to stress one point that is extremely important, I have never said or written that anyone has sexually assaulted me, I have to clearly stress this point,” Peng said in the video posted by Lianhe Zaobao, a Singapore media outlet.

“With regards to Weibo, it’s about my personal privacy … There’s been a lot of misunderstanding … There [should be] no distorted interpretation,” Peng said, referring to the original post to the Chinese social media platform, without elaborating.

In a November social media post, Peng appeared to allege that a former Chinese vice premier, Zhang Gaoli, had sexually assaulted her in the past.

Her post was quickly deleted and she was not seen in public for nearly three weeks, prompting concern among the international tennis community and rights groups.

WTA still concerned for her well-being

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) responded on Monday to Peng’s comments, saying her appearance did not “alleviate or address the WTA’s significant concerns about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion.”

China’s high-profile disappearances over the years Peng Shuai, Chinese tennis player On November 2, Peng Shuai shared a post on Chinese social media platform Weibo, alleging that a former vice premier, Zhang Gaoli, had sexually assaulted her. After the post, she was not seen for two weeks, prompting concern about her safety. She re-appeared over the weekend in Beijing and held a video call with IOC President Thomas Bach on Sunday — but there are still concerns about her wellbeing.

China’s high-profile disappearances over the years Ren Zhiqiang, real estate tycoon In February 2020, Ren Zhiqiang, a former real estate tycoon and an outspoken critic of Chinese President Xi Jinping, wrote an essay criticizing the Chinese authorities for their failure to respond to the COVID pandemic and called Xi a “clown.” After its publication, he disappeared from public view and was sentenced later that year to 18 years in prison for corruption.

China’s high-profile disappearances over the years Chen Qiushi, lawyer and citizen journalist At the start of 2020, Chen Qiushi went to Wuhan when it was the epicenter of what would later become the COVID-19 pandemic, and made videos that showed what was happening in the city. In February 2020, he was taken away by authorities and resurfaced over 600 days later. “Over the past year and eight months, I have experienced a lot of things. Some of it can be talked about, some of it can’t.”

China’s high-profile disappearances over the years Lu Guang, photographer At the end of 2018, Lu Guang, a long-time US-based Chinese photographer, was taken away by state security officials while traveling in China’s western Xinjiang province, the center of Beijing’s crackdown on Uyghur Muslims. Lu’s arrest drew international attention and widespread condemnation. In September 2019, Lu’s wife tweeted that he had been released a few months earlier and was home safe.

China’s high-profile disappearances over the years Meng Hongwei, former Interpol President In October 2018, the first-ever Chinese president of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, vanished mid-way through his four-year term while on a trip to China. It subsequently emerged that he had been detained, accused of bribery and other alleged crimes. Interpol then announced that Meng had stepped down from his post at the helm of the organization. He was later sentenced to over 13 years in prison.

China’s high-profile disappearances over the years Ai Weiwei, artist and activist Ai Weiwei is one of China’s highest-profile artists and political activists. He even helped design the 2008 Beijing Olympics Bird’s Nest stadium before falling out with the Chinese authorities. In 2011, Ai was arrested at the Beijing airport and spent 81 days in detention without charge. After being allowed to leave China in 2015, he has lived in Germany, the UK, and, since 2021, in Portugal.

China’s high-profile disappearances over the years Jack Ma, billionaire tech mogul Jack Ma, founder of tech giant Alibaba, stopped appearing in public after criticizing Chinese regulators in an October 2020 speech. Although there were rumors that Ma had been detained, his friends reportedly said it wasn’t true and that he decided to keep quiet following criticism over his comments. Ma reappeared two months later video — but made no mention of his retreat from public life.

China’s high-profile disappearances over the years Zhao Wei, famous actress and billionaire Zhao Wei has not been seen in public since August 2021 — and Beijing has made sure that she’s all but erased from history, with her films and TV shows removed from online streaming platforms without explanation. Her name has also been removed from credits of movies and TV programs. Even though Wei was reportedly spotted in eastern China in September, her exact whereabouts remain unclear. Author: William Yang (Taipei)

The WTA has since suspended tournaments in China over fears for her Peng’s safety.

Peng said Sunday that she had been living at home in Beijing without supervision. She added that she had personally written a letter in November to WTA boss Steve Simon, in which she denied the allegation of assault.

Simon said at the time he “had a hard time believing” that the tennis star had actually written the email.

Speaking on the sidelines of a cross-country skiing event in Shanghai, Peng’s comments are believed to come in the first foreign press interview since her post in November.

Peng did not mention Zhang.

The tennis player has so far held two video calls with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), as Beijing gears up to host the Winter Olympics early next year.

Watch video 02:02 Chinese tennis star tells IOC she is ‘safe’

rm, mvb/jsi (dpa, Reuters)