The recent mystery surrounding Peng Shuai – tennis star, who went missing over 2 weeks back after she accused a powerful Chinese official of sexual assault, is deeply troubling. The Chinese Foreign Ministry however, continues to remain ignorant about her whereabouts.
Peng, 35, a former Wimbledon and French Open doubles champion, allegedly posted on the Chinese social media site Weibo earlier this month that former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, who is in his 70s, had “forced” her into sex during a long-term on-and-off relationship, 3 years ago at his home in China. The accusation was instantly scrapped from the Twitter-like social media platform and Peng has not been heard ever since, drawing mounting concern over her well-being.
When Zhao Lijian, the ministry spokesperson was asked about Shuai’s disappearance, he told the media that the situation is “not a diplomatic question and I’m not aware of the situation.”
Liz Throssell, a spokeswoman for UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet’s office, told reporters in Geneva,
“It would be important to have proof of her whereabouts and well-being and we would urge that there be an investigation with full transparency into her allegations of sexual assault.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry essentially deals with all the foreign policies of the country. The Foreign Minister is typically one of the most powerful posts in China. Despite such power, they continue to remain unmindful about this matter and a statement about their thorough investigation into this situation is yet to be released from their part.
Concern for Peng’s safety spread like wildfire and some of the biggest tennis stars in the world have spoken out. Serena Williams tweeted:
“I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai. I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent. Sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time. #whereispengshuai”
Star players like Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic also expressed fear over her well-being, as did the legendary player Billie Jean King.
Adding to this bizarre, Chinese state media released a statement, supposedly written by Peng, where she withdraws her previous accusations on the sexual assault, saying,
“I am not missing, nor am I unsafe.” In that statement she added, “I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine.”
Steve Simon, WTA Chairman and CEO said, “The statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts,” He continued, “I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her.”
We’re hoping for the best in this situation and will continue monitoring what’s going on.