Tennis stars ask #WhereIsPengShuai, WTA threatens to pull out of China over her disappearance

Tennis stars ask #WhereIsPengShuai, WTA threatens to pull out of China over her disappearance
Bryan Ke
November 19, 2021
Members of the international tennis community have voiced their concerns over the mysterious and sudden disappearance of Peng Shuai, one of China’s star athletes, following a sexual allegation post against a former top official that was shared on Chinese social media early in November.
Where is Peng Shuai: Athletes and tennis personalities are rallying on Twitter to express their concern and call for an investigation of the 35-year-old former doubles No. 1’s sudden disappearance, according to Reuters.
  • The hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai has trended among the online tennis community to raise awareness. Some of the star athletes who have already used it include Serene Williams, Naomi Osaka, Shelby Rogers, Alizé Cornet and Julia Görges, to name a few.
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  • Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) chief executive Steve Simon told CNN he is prepared to pull the organization out of China and lose hundreds of millions of dollars in the process if officials do not investigate the sexual assault allegations and her alleged disappearance.
  • We’re definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it,” Simon said on Thursday. “Because this is certainly, this is bigger than the business.” 
  • The Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA), a group set up by tennis players Novak Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil, has released a statement asking for confirmation that Peng is safe.
  • The PTPA is advocating for independent evidence confirming the safety and location of WTA player, Peng Shuai,” the statement reads. “We must unite and be willing to take action unless corroborated evidence is provided to the world about Peng’s well being.”
What happened: Peng accused former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual coercion on Chinese social media on Nov. 4. China’s online censor took down her post less than an hour later, but the topic had already garnered attention online.
  • Online officials banned the topic the following day after the discussion was viewed more than 20 million times. Weibo also removed any mentions of Peng’s name after the incident.
  • State media outlet CGTN released an email purportedly written by Peng on Wednesday that said she was safe. The letter also backtracked on her sexual allegations against Zhang.
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  • In the letter, Peng reportedly wrote that the WTA had released the unconfirmed news without her consent, further stating that the sexual allegations were false. “I’m not missing, nor am I unsafe,” she allegedly wrote. “I’ve just been resting at home, and everything is fine.”
  • Simon, however, raised doubts on the authenticity of the letter and suggested that she might have been coerced into writing it. He described it as a “staged statement of some type.”
  • Whether she was coerced into writing it, someone wrote it for her, we don’t know,” he told CNN. “But at this point I don’t think there’s any validity in it and we won’t be comfortable until we have a chance to speak with her.”
Featured Image via Claude TRUONG-NGOC (CC BY-SA 3.0)
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