by Sebastian Hughes
Chinese state media released an email they claim to be written by missing tennis star Peng Shuai, who has not been seen or heard from in days.
Peng, a former doubles champion, accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of coercing her into sex several years ago in a Nov. 2 post on Weibo. The post was taken down within 30 minutes and Peng was met with blanket censorship by the Chinese government.
After days of fellow tennis players, such as Naomi Osaka, voicing concern over her well-being, state-run CGTN released an email it claims is from Peng. “I’m not missing, nor am I unsafe,” it stated, while also calling her allegations “not true.”
“The statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts,” Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Chairman and CEO Steve Simon, who was sent the email, said in a statement, CNN reported. “I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her.”
Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has sent an email to Steve Simon, the WTA Chairman & CEO, CGTN has learned. The email reads: pic.twitter.com/uLi6Zd2jDI
— CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) November 17, 2021
The email has only been shared by CTGN in English and has not been released in China domestically, CNN reported. Her Weibo account, which has over half a million followers, continues to be blocked from searchers on the platform.
“Peng’s recent so-called statement that ‘everything is fine’ should not be taken at face value as China’s state media has a track record of forcing statements out of individuals under duress, or else simply fabricating them,” Amnesty International’s China Researcher, Doriane Lau, told CNN. “These concerns will not go away unless Peng’s safety and whereabouts are confirmed.”
The WTA has increased its relationship with China in recent years, with the country hosting several WTA tournaments in 2019, CNN reported. The organization’s public interjection into the matter stands in contrast to other sporting bodies, including the International Olympic Committee, which will let Beijing host the 2022 Winter Olympics.