Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has not been seen in public for 18 days or more. This comes after she accused a former leader of the Chinese Communist Party of sexual assault on November 2nd. This has created great concern within the WTA and the tennis community over its location.
The former French Open and Wimbledon two-time champion claimed that retired Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli forced him to have sex three years ago in a deleted online post on Chinese social media site Weibo. Peng has not been seen in public since, except for a much-reviewed video by Chinese state media released of him at a restaurant in Beijing on Saturday and an alleged video-call with the president of the International Olympic Committee on Sunday.
The WTA has been actively pressuring China to confirm Peng’s safety and investigate its claims, even threatening to pull its lucrative business out of the country if those actions are not taken. The White House and the United Nations also came out in defense of Peng, as both demanded an investigation into her allegations and her disappearance.
Peng tennis peers have been just as supportive, with Novak Djokovic calling its disappearance “shocking” and Chris Evert describing the whole situation as “disturbing”. Billie Jean King wrote that he hopes Peng, a former no. 1 of the world, to be found safe while Alize Cornet added “Let’s not be silent” with the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.
The most prominent female tennis player on the planet, Naomi Osaka, wrote on Twitter that she is “shocked by the current situation” and “is sending love and illuminating her path”.
Serena Williams, the main force of the sport long before Osaka, shared the same photo of Peng with an equally anxious feeling.
Here is a chronological overview of how the whole Peng situation unfolded, starting with the latest updates:
November 21: IOC conducts video conference call with Peng
The International Olympic Committee announced on Sunday that IOC President Thomas Bach conducted a video call with Peng in which she claimed she was safe. According to the IOC statement, the two were accompanied in the call by Chinese sports official Li Lingwei as well as the chairwoman of the Athletes Commission Emma Terho.
According to that statement, Peng thanked the committee for his concern for her well-being and insisted that she was safe and well at her home in Beijing, but that “she likes to respect her privacy at this time. That is why she prefers to spend her time with friends and family now. ”
“I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing well, which was our main concern,” Terho said in a statement. “She seemed relaxed. I offered her our support and to stay in touch at any time convenient to her, which she definitely appreciated.”
The IOC also claimed that Peng accepted an invitation to dinner with Bach, Terho and Li in January. The 2022 Winter Olympics will be held in Beijing.
November 20: Chinese state media publish the first footage of Peng since his disappearance
Chinese state media distributed a video of Peng having dinner in Beijing, a day after he claimed that the tennis star shared three photos on Chinese social media platform WeChat. Global Times editor Hu Xijin, who posted the video on Twitter, said the dinner took place on Saturday and included Peng’s friends and coach.
The video comes after Xijin posted on Twitter Peng was “freely” staying home and would “attend some activities soon” on Friday.
While WTA CEO Steve Simon said seeing Peng in the video was a “positive” development, he described the evidence as “insufficient” and remained “concerned about Peng Shuai’s health and safety, and that the allegation of assault” “Sex is being censored and hidden. The carpet.”
“It remains unclear whether she is free and able to make decisions and take action on her own, without coercion or outside interference,” said Simon.
According to a Sky News translation, the people who dined with Peng made numerous references to her recent date and performances. Peng himself did not speak in the video.
November 19: White House and UN call for inquiry into Peng Shuai situation
The White House broke its silence on the Peng situation by seeking evidence of its security and condemning China’s censorship. Press secretary Jen Psaki said the White House is “deeply concerned” about the tennis star’s disappearance and is seeking “independent and verifiable evidence” of her whereabouts and condition.
A day earlier, US President Joe Biden said he was “considering” a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing over the country’s handling of human rights issues.
“Firstly, any report of sexual assault should be investigated and we support the ability of women to speak up and demand accountability, whether here or around the world. Secondly, we will continue to defend freedom of speech and we know it. “The PRC has zero tolerance for criticism and a history of silencing those who speak out, and we continue to condemn those practices.”
The United Nations has joined Peng’s defense of the White House, with UN Human Rights Office spokeswoman Liz Throssell calling for a “full transparency” investigation.
“What we would say is that it would be important to have evidence of her whereabouts and well-being, and we would push for an investigation with full transparency into her allegations of sexual assault,” Throssell said.
November 19: China says it is “unaware” of the situation involving Shuai
China’s Foreign Ministry revealed that they were not “aware” of the situation surrounding Peng Shuai, according to the Associated Press. Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian informed the media that the issue “was not a diplomatic question” and added that he “is not aware of the situation”.
Liz Throssell, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva, said the situation required “a full and transparent investigation into her allegations of sexual assault.”
As of Friday, the International Olympic Committee declined to comment on the matter.
November 18: Simon, WTA threatens to pull Chinese business
Simon redoubled his threat to pull the WTA business out of China, a country where his organization has expanded over the past few years if he did not confirm Peng’s safety and investigate its claims.
“We are definitely ready to pull off our business and deal with all the complications that come with it,” Simon said.CNN. “Because that’s for sure, this is bigger than business.”
“Women should be respected and not censored,” he added.
China hosted 19 WTA tournaments in 2019 alone for a total of $ 30.4 million. Shenzhen is scheduled to host the WTA finals from 2022-2030 after doing so in 2019 for the first time. The 2019 finals had a $ 14 million prize bag.
November 17: WTA questions the legitimacy of Peng Shuai’s statement
An email allegedly sent by Peng on Wednesday claimed that the WTA had not obtained her consent or verification before publishing her statement. They were Peng’s first public comments since her allegations, but some, including the WTA, had questions about the legitimacy of the statement.
“The news in that publication, including the allegation of sexual assault, is not true,” read the email, which was posted on Twitter by Chinese state-affiliated media, China Global Television Network. “I am not absent or insecure. I have just rested at home and everything is fine.”
Simon then openly asked if Peng was forced to write it.
“The statement issued today by the Chinese state media regarding Peng Shuai only raises my concerns about its safety and location.”wrote Simon. “Peng Shuai should be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source.”
Peng has not yet been seen since her post on social media on November 2nd.
November 15: China remains silent on Peng Shuai’s disappearance allegations
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijansaid“This is not a diplomatic question” when asked about Peng’s allegations, adding that he “had not heard of the matter”. The country, 13 days after Peng’s post, has not yet accepted it.
November 14: WTA chief calls for investigation into situation
Steve Simon, WTA chief executive, called for a “full, fair and transparent” investigation into Peng’s allegations in a statement. At that moment, no one had seen or heard of Peng for 12 days, causing the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai to spread on social media.
“Obviously she showed extraordinary courage by appearing in public.”said Simon to the New York Times. “Now we want to make sure we are moving forward in a place where a full and transparent investigation is taking place. Everything else, I think, is an insult not only to our players, but to all women.”
Simon threatened to pull the WTA business out of China if the country did not properly investigate Peng’s allegations. China currently hosts 11 WTA tournaments and tournament finals in Shenzhen.
While Simon could not directly confirm Peng’s whereabouts or condition, he told the Times that several sources, including the Chinese Tennis Association, told him she was “safe and not under any physical threat.” Simon’s “meaning” was that she was in Beijing.
November 2: Peng Shuai makes sexual assault charges against Zhang
In a 1,600-word post on Weibo, Peng accused 75-year-old Zhang, a former leader within China’s Communist Party, of pressuring her for sex about three years ago. Peng, 35, claimed the attack happened after Zhang invited him to play tennis with him and his wife at their home, but she admitted there was no evidence.
“I was very scared that afternoon,” wrote Peng, who claimed that a guard stood guard outside the door as the attack took place. “I never gave consent, crying all the time.”
Peng said she and Zhang met each other while the latter was serving as Tianjin’s party chief from 2007-2012 and Zhang forced her to have sex after leaving his post as China’s deputy prime minister in 2017.
“I know that for someone of your stature, Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli, you said you were not afraid,” Peng wrote. “But even if it’s like throwing an egg against the rock, or if I’m like a moth drawn by the flame, seeking self – destruction, I’ll tell the truth about you.”
The post was deleted within 30 minutes and Chinese censors blocked search terms like Peng’s name.
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