Peng Shuai Appearance Fails to Address Concerns for Her Wellbeing

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has spoken once again, retracting sexual assault allegations she made against former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli, saying her statement was “misunderstood.”

Following Peng’s latest statement, the Women’s Tennis Association said it failed to address actual concerns for her wellbeing and immediately called for an investigation, reiterating calls it has made for months now. 

In early November, Peng disappeared for a full 18 days following an accusation on China’s version of Twitter, Weibo, that Zhang had sexually assaulted her. The post was almost immediately censored and deleted, but not before it went viral. She vanished from public life for months. Her disappearance following her allegations prompted global fear over her wellbeing. 

This week, Peng tried to retract that claim, sparking renewed concern that Peng is being censored by the Chinese government. 

In an interview this week, Peng said that there were “many misunderstandings” over the post and that she “never said or written that anyone sexually assaulted” her. She made the statement on camera at a cross-country skiing event taking place in Shanghai. Singapore outlet Lianhe Zaobao posted the video online following the skiing event. 

She claimed that she was neither monitored nor surveilled and that she had always been “free.” 

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) is not buying it. They, amongst many experts and human rights activists worldwide, have said that she is only changing her story due to pressure from the Chinese government. 

The WTA announced in December that it was pulling out of all tournaments in China due to its ongoing concern for Peng, and reinstating its commitment to the safety of its players. This is despite the fact China has become the biggest market for the WTA. 

Concern for human rights and Peng’s safety also led to protests against the Winter Olympics being held in Beijing in February 2022. Multiple countries, including the United States, have said they will be boycotting the elections.

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