Peng Shuai: The pressure on China is increasing due to the disappearance of tennis player Peng Shuai

By AFP

19/11/2021 – 4:31 PM

From the United Nations to the United States government, international positions are multiplying to ask China to clarify the disappearance of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who has not shown any signs of life since the beginning of November.

The whereabouts of the 35-year-old former world number one stuntman has been unknown since she accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli on social media of forcing her to have sex three years ago, before making her his lover.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that the United States is “deeply concerned” about Shuai’s situation.

Washington called on China to “provide independent and verifiable evidence” of the athlete’s whereabouts and safety.

The United Nations also joined international demands on Friday for information on the tennis player’s status.

“It would be important to have proof of his whereabouts and to know that he is okay. We also urge a transparent investigation into his allegations of sexual assault,” said a spokeswoman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Liz Throssell, in a press conference in Geneva.

– The world of tennis mobilized –

The WTA, the body that governs world women’s tennis, also took a position to call for a “transparent and fair” investigation and even threatened China with excluding it from circuit events.

“We are fully prepared to withdraw China from our activities and deal with any complications that arise,” WTA President Steve Simon announced on Thursday.

The consequences could be important for the organization, as China is one of its main partners with a dozen tournaments in its territory each season, some of them very lucrative.

Under the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai, numerous players and tournaments continue to demand clarification on Shuai’s situation on social media.

Men’s tennis number one Novak Djokovic called the issue “shocking” earlier in the week, while Japanese star Naomi Osaka said she was “shocked by the situation” and American Serena Williams said she was “devastated”.

France also declared itself “concerned by the lack of information on the situation of Peng Shuai, which worries the international community and sports circles,” in a statement issued on Friday by the Foreign Ministry.

For its part, the Lawn Tennis Association, organizer of the Wimbledon tournament, said in a statement that it had “written to the WTA to offer (its) assistance in its efforts to establish the safety and well-being of Peng Shuai.”

– Questions about mail –

Peng Shuai had posted his allegations on November 2 on his official Weibo account, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, before China blocked any reference to this message. AFP could not confirm whether the message had been written by herself.

Since then, the tennis player – a doubles winner at Wimbledon in 2013 and at Roland Garros in 2014 – has not appeared in public again. An email attributed to him by official Chinese media was released on Thursday, but its authenticity is disputed by Steve Simon.

In the message, Peng allegedly claims that his previous allegations “are not true” and said that he is “resting at home and everything is fine.”

Peng’s denunciations brought the #MeToo movement to the highest echelons of the ruling Communist Party in China for the first time.

“The Chinese government has systematically silenced the country’s #MeToo movement,” said Doriane Lau, Amnesty International’s researcher on the Asian giant.

“Considering that she also has a zero tolerance approach to criticism, it is deeply disturbing that Peng Shuai appears to be missing,” he said.

China has repeatedly refused to comment on the Shuai case. Hu Xijin, editor of the Communist Party-owned Global Times, tweeted on Friday that he does not believe “Peng Shuai has received the reprisals and repression speculated by foreign media.”

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Peng Shuai: The pressure on China is increasing due to the disappearance of tennis player Peng Shuai

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