The president of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), Steve Simon, has expressed “growing concern” for the safety of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai after state television CGTN broadcast an alleged letter from her. in which he said he was “fine”. Peng reported at the beginning of the month that she had been sexually assaulted by a former deputy prime minister of her country and since then there has been no news of her.
According to an alleged email from Peng addressed to Simon – which CGTN released this Wednesday on your Twitter page-, the tennis player would be “well and resting”. “Regarding the recent news published on the official WTA website, the content has not been confirmed or verified by me and was published without my consent,” the letter says. “The news published in that statement, including the allegations of sexual assault, are not true. I am not missing or in danger. I am resting at home and I am fine. Thank you again for worrying about me,” he says.
Peng has also asked in the letter that the WTA verify any future statements with her and ask for her consent before publishing it. “I hope to promote Chinese tennis with all of you if in the future I have the opportunity. I hope that Chinese tennis will get better and better,” he concludes.
As reported The Guardian, the screenshot of the letter, which included a visible cursor in the text, was not published anywhere within China and has sparked skepticism.
Simon has indicated this Wednesday it’s a statement that the alleged letter released by the CGTN only “increased” their concerns about Peng’s safety and whereabouts.
“It is hard to believe that Peng Shuai wrote that email that we received or that can be attributed to her. Peng showed great courage in describing her allegation of sexual abuse against a senior Chinese government official. The WTA and the rest of the world need verifiable evidence that she is safe. I have tried to contact her in various ways, without success, “said the manager.
The WTA president added that Peng must be able to speak “freely, without coercion or intimidation of any kind. His complaint must be respected and investigated with full transparency and without censorship.” “The voices of women,” he asserted, “must be heard and respected, not censored.”
The NGO Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) has said that the statement “should not be taken at face value”. “The Chinese government has a long history of arbitrarily arresting people involved in controversial cases, controlling their ability to speak freely and forcing them to make forced statements,” said William Nee, CHRD’s research and advocacy coordinator. “Until Peng Shuai is released, the burden of proof must rest with the Chinese government to show that she is not being detained.”
According to her account, Zhang tried to keep the relationship a secret and had stopped contacting her after rising through the ranks of the Communist Party. The 75-year-old politician and vice premier of China between 2013 and 2018, even expressed concern that she could record their meetings. During those five years, Zhang was one of seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee, headed by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The 35-year-old tennis player said that three years ago Zhang contacted her again to invite her to play tennis with him and his wife and then sexually assaulted her at home. “I never indulged him that afternoon, [estuve] crying all the time, “he wrote.
During the story, Peng says he has no evidence to back up his claims. “I have no evidence. It has been impossible to get any. There is no audio or video record, just my distorted experience, but very real.”
As reported The Guardian, the tennis player’s post on Weibo, a Chinese social network similar to Twitter, went viral on Chinese social networks but was deleted within minutes and searches for Peng, former number one in the tennis doubles rankings, were apparently restricted. Post and post reactions, including keywords like “tennis”, also appear to have been blocked. The Peng’s Weibo account still active but without mention of Zhang.
The Chinese government has not responded to the allegations. During a press conference two weeks ago, Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, told reporters that he was not aware of the situation. “I have not heard of the issue they have raised,” he said. “It is not a diplomatic question.”