‘Where is she?’: Chinese tennis player who says top politician raped her may now have disappeared
Chinese Tennis Association says she is safe, but no one has spoken with Peng directly in about 10 days
Former world No.1 women’s doubles tennis player Peng Shuai, one of China’s biggest sporting stars, early this month publicly accused a former Chinese vice-premier of forcing her into sex several years ago — and has not been seen since.
According to a screenshot of her verified Weibo account, Peng said that Zhang Gaoli, who was a member of the Politburo Standing Committee — China’s top decision-making body — coerced her into sex and they later had an on-off consensual relationship. It was the first time such a high-ranking Chinese politician has been publicly accused of sexual assault.
The post was deleted around half an hour after it was published, although searches for Peng’s name on China’s tightly controlled internet surged after the posting and screenshots were shared among private WeChat groups and over iMessage.
China’s internet is heavily censored and the private lives of top leaders are an especially sensitive subject.
While Peng’s Weibo account remained available, with earlier posts visible, the comment and repost functions were disabled.
Concerns have grown among the global tennis community for Peng, the first Chinese player to top the world rankings when she was doubles No. 1 in 2014. She and her partners won the Wimbledon womens’ doubles in 2013 and the French Open title in 2014.
In a rare step, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) on Sunday entered the fray when it called on China to investigate the allegations of sexual assault and demanded an end to censorship of the former player.
But more pointedly, it also said it would seek a “full, fair and transparent investigation into sexual assault allegations” against the former Chinese leader.
“The recent events in China concerning a WTA player, Peng Shuai, are of deep concern,” said WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon.
“Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored.”
Former tennis world champ and currently a television analyst, Chris Evert, spoke up as well: