China’s state-controlled media on Wednesday released a purported email from tennis star Peng Shuai, who has not been seen since accusing a Communist Party leader of sexual abuse more than two weeks ago.
Tennis officials have doubted the veracity of the email released by CGTN, in which Peng walked back her assault accusations while adding she was “resting at home and everything is fine.”
Women’s Tennis Association Chairman and CEO Steve Simon said he didn’t think the two-time Grand Slam champion wrote the missive.
“The statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts,” Simon said in a written statement.
“I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her.”
Peng, 35, wrote on Weibo on Nov. 2 that former Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli pressured her into having sex before they later had an on-off consensual relationship.
“Why did you have to come back to me, took me to your home to force me to have sex with you?” she alleged, according to screenshots of the post. “I never gave consent, crying the entire time.”
“I couldn’t describe how disgusted I was, and how many times I asked myself am I still a human? I feel like a walking corpse. Every day I was acting, which person is the real me?”
Her statement was deleted from the Chinese social media site 30 minutes later and she has not been seen or heard from since, as state censors scrubbed mentions of the accusation from the platform.
“The WTA and the rest of the world need independent and verifiable proof that she is safe,” Simon wrote. “I have repeatedly tried to reach her via numerous forms of communications, to no avail.”
Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka wrote on Twitter Tuesday that she was “in shock of the current situation.”
“Censorship is never OK at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and OK,” Osaka wrote, adding the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.
Billie Jean King and Chris Evert also weighed in on the plight of the missing star in recent days.
“I’ve known Peng since she was 14; we should all be concerned; this is serious; where is she? Is she safe? Any information would be appreciated,” Evert tweeted.
“Hoping that Peng Shuai is found safe and that her accusations are fully investigated,” King said.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Weibo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this month, a spokesman said the issue was “not a question related to foreign affairs.”
With Post wires