Naomi Osaka expresses concern for Peng Shuai, tennis star missing since accusing former Chinese official of assault

Naomi Osaka
(Image credit: Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Naomi Osaka is among the athletes raising concern about Peng Shuai, the tennis star whose whereabouts are unknown after she made a sexual assault claim against a former Chinese official.

Osaka in a tweet expressed concern for Peng's safety, explaining she "has gone missing shortly after revealing that she has been sexually abused." The tennis star wrote, "Censorship is never ok at any cost," adding, "I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and ok. I'm in shock of the current situation and I'm sending love and light her way."

Peng earlier this month accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault in a post on the Chinese social media platform Weibo. "I didn't agree to have sex with you and kept crying that afternoon," she wrote to Zhang, alleging they had a relationship for 10 years. Her post was quickly deleted, and she has not been seen in public since, according to CNN. Chinese censors took action to block search terms related to her allegation, NBC News reports. According to The New York Times, "searches of her name and even the word 'tennis' appeared to be blocked."

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The Women's Tennis Association on Sunday called for Chinese offiicals to conduct an investigation into the allegations. WTA Tour CEO Steve Simon said he "received confirmation from several sources, including the Chinese Tennis Association, that [Peng] is safe and not under any physical threat," The New York Times reports. He added that "my understanding is that she is in Beijing in China, but I can't confirm that because I haven't spoken directly with her."

A number of tennis stars in recent days have also expressed concern for Peng's safety. Novak Djokovic said it's "shocking that she's missing," while Billie Jean King tweeted, "Hoping that Peng Shuai is found safe and that her accusations are fully investigated."

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