China must provide “verifiable evidence” that missing tennis player Peng Shuai is safe, the foreign ministry said after she appeared in a video released by state media.
Peng, a former Wimbledon doubles champion, is seen smiling and surrounded by friends in the apparently new footage.
The video was posted to Twitter by Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of Global Times – the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party. He said it was taken today and showed Peng dining with her coach and friends in Beijing.
He previously claimed that Peng was staying “free” in her own home and would soon be making a public appearance.
A spokesman for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said the government remains “extremely concerned” and is following the matter closely.
They said: “The Chinese authorities urgently need to provide verifiable evidence of her safety and whereabouts.
“Everyone should be able to speak out without fear of repercussions. All reports of sexual violence, anywhere in the world, should be investigated.”
Former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith told BBC Radio 4’s PM program that the government should boycott the Winter Olympics.
He said the UK must “stand up” and make it clear to China that human rights violations are unacceptable.
Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) head Steve Simon said that while it is “positive to see her” in the video, it “remains unclear whether she is free and capable of making decisions and taking actions on her own.” without coercion or outside interference”.
The organization’s chairman and chief executive added: “This video alone is not enough…I remain concerned about Peng Shuai’s health and safety and that the allegation of sexual assault will be censored and swept under the rug.”
Peng, 35, disappeared after he posted a social media post on Nov. 2 accusing former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli of forcing her to have sex after she played tennis at his home.
Photos of Peng at the Beijing restaurant have also been released on social media, where she appears to be holding a glass of wine and making a ‘V for Victory’ sign.
In the video, Peng is seen sitting with a man and two women, but does not speak.
The man and one of the women repeatedly refer to the date, with the man saying, “Tomorrow is November 20, isn’t it?”
The woman corrects him by saying it would be November 21, before the man discusses Peng’s recent appearances and upcoming tournaments.
“We’ve had two games in the past,” he says. “But we were not happy with the results.
“Tomorrow’s game is the conclusion of the nine games of the past three months.
“The end of November is the end of the year. We have to do our best.”
Peng’s original post on Weibo has been deleted and neither Zhang Gaoli nor the Chinese government has responded to her claim.
It comes as Boris Johnson is reportedly considering a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics next year in protest at China’s human rights record.
An “active discussion” in the government is underway, with Secretary of State Liz Truss saying he is in favor of the boycott, the Times newspaper reported.
The mystery surrounding the tennis champion took a new turn on Friday apparently photos appeared showing her relaxing at home, surrounded by stuffed animals and with a gray cat.
Experts expressed skepticism and doubted the authenticity of the images.
Others also pointed to the presence in one of the photos of a framed photo featuring Winnie the Pooh – a character banned in China after people mockingly compared him to President Xi Jinping.
An email allegedly from Peng was released Wednesday by CGTN – the international arm of government-controlled state broadcaster CCTV – but doubts have also been raised about its authenticity.
It says the assault allegation is “not true” and adds: “I am not missing, nor am I unsafe. I just rested at home and everything is fine”.
The White House and the United Nations have united to determine Peng’s whereabouts and well-being.
Amid growing concern, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has threatened to withdraw tournaments from China and the men’s ATP has demanded clarity from Chinese authorities.
Briton Andy Murray and the Lawn Tennis Association have joined an online campaign to help find Peng.
Other tennis stars, including Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic, are concerned about her whereabouts.
The world number one, Djokovic, said he supported “100%” the threat from the WTA to halt events in China.
He told reporters: “This is horrific. I mean, there’s a person missing.
“The whole community, the tennis community, needs to support her and her family, make sure she’s safe and healthy, because if you were to hold tournaments on Chinese soil without resolving this situation, it would be a little strange.”
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