Women’s tennis casts doubt on alleged email from tennis star Peng Shuai amid concerns about her whereabouts

China’s state television broadcaster CGTN released the email, allegedly from Peng, in the early hours of Wednesday morning local time amid growing international concern about his whereabouts.

Simon has said that he doubts the email is authentic.

“The statement released today by Chinese state media about Peng Shuai only raises my concerns about his safety and his whereabouts,” Simon said in a statement, “I find it hard to believe that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believe what is being attributed to her. “

He added: “Peng Shuai must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source. His complaint of sexual assault must be respected, investigated with full transparency and without censorship.”

Several prominent voices have expressed concern about Peng’s whereabouts. Peng, one of China’s most recognizable tennis stars, has not been seen in public since she accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of forcing her to have sex at his home three years ago, according to screenshots from a social media post. social networks deleted since then on November 2.

His post on Weibo, the Chinese Twitter-like platform, was removed within 30 minutes of posting, and Chinese censors moved quickly to remove any mention of the allegation online. His Weibo account, which has more than half a million followers, is still blocked from search engines on the platform.

Chinese tennis star accuses former Communist Party leader of sexual assault, sparking widespread censorship

Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka was among the last high-level athletes to voice her concern for Peng. “Censorship is never okay at all costs, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and well. I am in shock at the current situation and send her love and light,” Osaka said as part of a Twitter statement. on Tuesday.

She included the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.

Tennis legend and 39-time Grand Slam championship winner Billie Jean King said on Twitter: “In the hope that Peng Shuai is safe and that his allegations will be fully investigated.”

And former world number one Chris Evert said, “These allegations are very disturbing.”

“I have known Peng since he was 14 years old; we should all be concerned; this is serious; where is he? Is he safe? Any information would be appreciated,” he said in a post on Twitter.

An alleged letter from Peng

On Sunday, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) called on the Chinese government to investigate the allegations, insisting that the top-ranked former doubles player should be “heard, not censored.”

Peng’s alleged email reversing the allegations was released by CGTN on Wednesday. The state media network did not provide any video or additional evidence verifying Peng’s whereabouts. He also did not explain how he obtained the letter.

The email reads: “With respect to recent news posted on the official WTA website, the content has not been confirmed or verified by myself and was posted without my consent. The news in that statement, including the allegation of sexual assault, it is not true. I am not lacking, nor am I insecure. I have just been resting at home and everything is fine. ”

“If the WTA publishes any more news about me, please check it with me and post it with my consent. As a professional tennis player, I thank you all for your company and consideration. I look forward to promoting Chinese tennis with all of you if I have the opportunity in the future. I hope that Chinese tennis is getting better and better, “he continues.

The ATP Tour, a world-class tennis world tour for men, had said in a statement Monday that it was “encouraged by the recent assurances received by the WTA that (Peng) is safe and accounted for and will continue to monitor the situation closely. “. “but did not provide further details on the veracity of the guarantees.

“Separately, we fully support the WTA’s call for a full, fair and transparent investigation into the sexual assault allegations against Peng Shuai,” ATP President Andrea Gaudenzi said in the statement.

Politically sensitive scandal

Peng’s explosive #MeToo allegations against a former state leader have had repercussions on the internet in China, despite attempts by authorities to remove any mention of such a politically sensitive scandal.

Zhang, 75, served on the ruling Communist Party’s seven-person Politiburo Standing Committee, the country’s supreme leadership body, from 2012 to 2017 during Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s first term in power. He retired as deputy prime minister in 2018.

In her post, which reads like an open letter to Zhang, the 35-year-old tennis star alleges a relationship for an intermittent period that lasted at least 10 years.

“Why did you have to come back to me, take me to your house to force me to have sex with you?” she wrote.

Peng said he had no evidence to prove his accusations and claimed that Zhang was always concerned about his recording things.

“I cannot describe how upset I was, and how many times I wondered if I am still human. I feel like a walking corpse,” Peng wrote.

CNN cannot independently verify Peng’s post, and has reached out to both her and the Chinese State Council, which handles central government press inquiries, for comment.

On Wednesday, China sidestepped media inquiries about Peng’s allegations against Zhang.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian suggested that reporters should contact the “competent department”, despite reporters commenting on the lack of response from the Ministry of Public Security.

Speaking at a press conference, Zhao was asked about the WTA’s concerns about Peng’s “safety and whereabouts” and whether the government planned to take any action, to which Zhao said the issue was “not an issue. diplomat, “refusing to comment further. .

Reporters in the room continued to press the issue, claiming that they had contacted the Ministry of Public Security for comment, but had received no response, resulting in questions about which department journalists should contact for more details.

“Do you think the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is omnipotent?” Zhao replied.

“You should go ask the competent department,” Zhao added, once again avoiding the reporter’s question.

CNN’s Beijing office and Mitchell McCluskey in Atlanta contributed to this report.


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