A Chinese tennis star that publicly accused a top former Politburo official of forcing her to have sex has seemingly vanished without a trace as the Women’s Tennis Association demanded her accusations be fully investigated.
Peng Shuai, a onetime No. 1-ranked doubles player, has not been seen or heard from in over ten days, after she wrote a lengthy social-media post alleging sexual assault by an elderly married former vice premier of China.
Former women’s tennis players Chris Evert and Billie Jean King echoed their support for Peng and expressed their hope that she could be located in the near future.
“Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored,” a statement released on Sunday from WTA Chairman Steve Simon read. “Her accusation about the conduct of a former Chinese leader involving a sexual assault must be treated with the utmost seriousness. In all societies, the behavior she alleges that took place needs to be investigated, not condoned or ignored. We commend Peng Shuai for her remarkable courage and strength in coming forward.”
A Chinese government spokesperson pleaded ignorance about the status of tennis star Peng Shuai.
“I have not heard of the issue you raised,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters on Monday at a news conference, per AFP. He added: “This is is not a diplomatic question” and made no further comment on the subject.
The 35-year-old alleged that retired vice premier Zhang Gaoli pressured her into having sex after he and his wife invited her to their home for a meal in 2018. She eventually agreed to an ongoing affair that Zhang insisted on keeping secret, according Peng’s post.
“That afternoon I didn’t agree at first and kept crying,” she wrote. “ … I know I can’t say it all clearly, and that there’s no use in saying it. But I still want to say it.”
Traces of her accusation against a government official have been scrubbed from Chinese internet outlets controlled by the government.
Peng rose to the world’s No. 1 doubles ranking in 2014 after securing championships at Wimbledon and the French Open.