The Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai is reportedly still missing after she accused a Chinese government official of sexually assaulting her earlier this month and as a result, the pressure has been slowly mounting for China to give an answer on the athlete’s whereabouts.
Peng, 35, has not been seen publicly since she accused a former member of the Communist party’s Standing Committee, Zhang Gaoli, of forcing her to have sex years ago.
Peng posted the accusation via Weibo on Nov. 2 but the post has since been deleted.
Sports and culture writer for The Athletic, Kavitha Davidson, who has been reporting on the tennis player’s disappearance, shared the latest developments in Peng’s story on Friday’s episode of the PEOPLE Every Day podcast.
Davison went on to reveal how “some of the biggest names in tennis” such as Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams, Petra Kvitová, Nadia Petrova, and Andy Murray are using the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai to put “pressure on China to answer for her whereabouts.”
The writer also shared how the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has also been vocal about their concern for Peng, especially since an email was released Wednesday by the country’s state-owned television broadcaster, CGTN, claiming to be written by Peng. The message says the sexual assault never happened and Peng has been resting at her home.
“The head of the WTA has said, unequivocally, that they are very concerned about what has happened here. They do not believe that the email that Chinese state media put out is true,” Davidson revealed. “And they are threatening to pull their partnership with China, which is not a small thing.”
She continued, “The way that this email reads, and I don’t say this lightly, this sounds hyperbolic — but it reads a little bit like a hostage note,” before clarifying, “I’m not saying that necessarily Peng is being held hostage. But the WTA itself has said that they doubt the veracity of, and the origins of this email.”
Peng’s email was released in English and sent to English-speaking media. Davidson also noted how the tennis star’s message had “not been covered by Chinese media locally, and it was obviously released by Chinese state media.”
Davidson also revealed how China has been increasingly invested in tennis in the past decade and Peng’s disappearance could affect their partnership with WTA.
“A lot of future tournaments, juniors tournaments, and now the WTA finals, are held in China. They bid for those tournaments,” she said. “So for the WTA to threaten to pull out of, what was a 10-year deal signed in 2019, is a huge deal. You’re talking millions and millions of dollars.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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