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World Demands Answers From China on the Disappearance of Tennis Star

Peng Shuai
The UN and the WTA are demanding information about Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, who has not been seen in public since November 2. Credit: Claude Truong, CC BY-SA 3.0

China came under scrutiny from the United Nations and the Women’s Tennis Association on Friday after former world doubles No.1 Peng Shuai disappeared from public life following an accusation of sexual assault she made on Chinese social media platform Weibo.

Shuai accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of forcing of having sex with her without her consent after inviting her to his home. Shuai’s accusation only lasted 30 minutes on Weibo before it was removed from the site by administrators. Her account was subsequently blocked from the platform.

Shuai launched these allegations on Weibo on November 2, and has not been seen in public since. The United Nations and the Women’s Tennis Association are now calling for China to provide information about her whereabouts and conduct a full investigation into her allegations:

“What we would say is that it would be important to have proof of her whereabouts and wellbeing, and we would urge that there be an investigation with full transparency into her allegations of sexual assault,” Liz Throssell, a spokesperson for the UN, told the press on Friday.

“According to available information, the former world doubles No. 1 hasn’t been heard from publicly since she alleged on social media that she was sexually assaulted. We would stress that it is important to know where she is and know her state, know about her wellbeing,” Throssell added.

WTA willing to stop working with China over their treatment of Peng Shuai

Steve Simon, current head of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), said that he would stop at nothing to ensure that Peng is safe and that her case is investigated:

“We’re definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it,” Simon said in an interview Thursday with CNN. “Because this is certainly, this is bigger than the business,” added Simon.

“Women need to be respected and not censored.”

The White House has also issued its own statement on Shuai through Press Secretary Jen Psaki: “We are deeply concerned by reports that Peng Shuai appears to be missing after accusing a former PRC (Peoples Republic of China) senior official of sexual assaults. We join in the calls for PRC authorities to provide independent and verifiable proof of her whereabouts and that she is safe.”

Simon said that when the WTA attempted to work with the Chinese Tennis Association to secure Shuai’s safety the association was met with dismissive claims that the athlete was okay but no direct contact from Shuai herself:

“We have reached out to her on every phone number and email address and other forms of contact,” he said. “There’s so many digital approaches to contact people these days that we have, and to date we still have not been able to get a response.”

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