Stunning Silence From Chinese Officials On Tennis Star’s Disappearance

by G. G. Reynolds, The Chicago Times

November 19, 2021

BEIJING — After uploading an email she reportedly sent to the Women’s Tennis Association, Chinese officials have remained silent regarding missing tennis player Peng Shuai.

Tennis players around the world have demanded an investigation into the allegations made by Peng, 35, in a social media post that accuse former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault against Peng

Peng alleged that Zhang, 75, raped her following a tennis match three years ago.  In the claim, Peng also states Zhang’s wife guarded a door to the room where the rape took place.

Peng’s Weibo social media post stated:

“Yes, aside from myself, I kept no evidence, no recordings, no videos, only the real experience of my twisted self. Even if I’m destroying myself, like throwing an egg against a rock, or a moth flying into a flame, I will still speak out the truth about us.”  

The message was quickly scrubbed from Peng’s verified account on Weibo, a popular Chinese social media network, but screenshots of the post quickly circulated on the Chinese internet.

The matter appears to have been concealed in China’s state-controlled media.  Peng has also vanished from public view after publishing the post two weeks ago, prompting concerns about her location and whether she has been arrested or possibly disappeared.

When repeatedly asked about the case, a China Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian reiterated on Thursday that he was unaware of the allegations or the whereabouts of Peng.

Over the years, Chinese celebrities have endured tyranny and censorship by the communist regime if they criticize the government or leaders, especially if their statements create a negative light on the country.

China’s state-run internet has apparently scrubbed or limited search results to stories related to Peng’s tennis career.  In addition, Peng’s Weibo account no longer allows comments, and a search on her Weibo account yields no results.

China’s communist government has mostly held down the #MeToo movement by force, which erupted briefly in 2018.  Despite calls for boycotts from activists and foreign government officials, the communist government is pushing ahead with the Beijing Winter Olympics in February.

On Friday, China’s state-run CGTN published an email that claimed to be sent by Peng to WTA CEO Steve Simon.

Peng stated in the email that the allegations of sexual assault were “not true,” and that she was neither “missing” nor “unsafe.”  She requested that any information WTA planned to publish first be approved by her.

However, Simon stated that the email added to his anxieties and uncertainties regarding Peng’s safety.

“The statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts . . . Peng Shuai must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source.” Simon stated.

Simon has demanded a thorough inquiry, and the WTA has stated that if it does not receive a suitable response, it would withdraw events from China.  In addition, tennis players have petitioned the WTA and the Association of Tennis Professionals for action.