where is Peng Shuai?
A new statement attributed to missing Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai claims she's "not missing" and "everything is fine." But the head of the Women's Tennis Association has a "hard time" believing it.
Concern has been growing over the safety of Peng, whose whereabouts are unknown after she made an allegation of sexual assault against former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli. Amid calls for answers, Chinese state media released an email attributed to Peng and sent to Women's Tennis Association CEO Steve Simon, which claims, "I'm not missing, nor am I unsafe. I've just been resting at home and everything is fine." The statement also suggests her own allegation of sexual assault "is not true." But Simon said this email "only raises my concerns" about her safety.
"I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her," he said. "Peng Shuai displayed incredible courage in describing an allegation of sexual assault against a former top official in the Chinese government. The WTA and the rest of the world need independent and verifiable proof that she is safe."
Simon also said he has "repeatedly" tried to reach Peng "via numerous forms of communication" but has not been successful. Tennis star Naomi Osaka backed the calls for answers about Peng's whereabouts this week, tweeting, "Censorship is never ok at any cost. 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 made her allegation of sexual assault against Zhang Gaoli on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, but it was quickly deleted as the government also moved to block related search terms. "Peng Shuai must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source," Simon said.