Naomi Osaka expresses concern about Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai

Tennis stars Naomi Osaka, Novak Djokovic and others express concern about Chinese player Peng Shuai, who claimed she was sexually abused by a former Chinese head of state before her post about it was removed.

Osaka encrypted Peng on Tuesday after learning she had “disappeared” with the hashtag #WhereisPengShuai.

“Censorship is never in order for any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and well,” Osaka wrote. “I’m shocked by the current situation and I’m sending love and lighting her way.”

Peng, who was once ranked No. 1 double by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of forcing her to have sex three years ago, despite repeated denials. Peng, who had a previous consensual relationship with Zhang while he was in office, also accused his wife of guarding the door while she was sexually assaulted. She made the claims on the Chinese social media platform Weibo earlier this month but the mail was quickly removed, arousing fears over her safety.

On Wednesday, Chinese-state-controlled media released an email it said was from Peng to WTA president and CEO Steve Simon, saying she was not missing.

“The news in that edition, including the allegation of sexual assault is not true,” the message read. “I’m not missing, nor am I insecure. I just rested at home and everything is in order.”

But Simon responded with a statement saying, “The statement released today by Chinese state media on Peng Shuai only raises my concerns about her safety and whereabouts.”

He continued: “I find it hard to believe that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believe what is attributed to her. Peng Shuai showed incredible courage in describing an allegation of sexual assault against a former CEO in the Chinese government. The WTA and the the rest of the world needs independent and verifiable proof that she is safe. I have repeatedly tried to reach her through many forms of communication, to no avail. “

Prior to the alleged statement, Chinese state media suppressed all reports of the case. Peng’s accusations marked the first time the #MeToo movement had hit the top rallies of the ruling Communist Party, the Associated Press reported.

China’s Shuai Peng performed during her Women’s Singles first round match against Japan’s Nao Hibino on the second day of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 21, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia.

/ Getty Images

Censorship of the event attacked the tennis world. Earlier this week, Djokovic, a male No. 1 tennis player, said he was “shocked” and wished her a safe return. The WTA, the main organizing body of women’s professional tennis, has called for a transparent investigation into her allegations of sexual assault.

“Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored,” WTA President and CEO Steve Simon said in a statement on Sunday. “Her accusation of the behavior of a former Chinese leader involving sexual assault must be treated with the utmost seriousness … We praise Peng Shuai for her remarkable courage and strength in advancing. Women around the world find their voices so unjust. Can be corrected . ”

A day later, president of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), Andrea Gaudenzi, said he had received assurances from the WTA that she was “safe and responsible” and would continue to monitor the situation.

“There is nothing more important to us than the safety of our tennis community. We were deeply concerned about the uncertainty surrounding the immediate safety and whereabouts of WTA player Peng Shuai,” he said.

Peng won 23 tour-level doubles titles, including Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014. She was a semifinalist at the 2014 US Open.


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