The United Nations and the United States demanded proof of Peng Shuai’s whereabouts on Friday because of growing concerns about the well-being of the Chinese tennis star.
The player has not appeared in public since she was accused of being sexually assaulted by the former deputy prime minister of China on November 2.
Tennis stars, sports organizations, the government, and human rights defenders all voiced support for the 35-year-old young man, who claimed in a now-deleted Weibo post that Zhang Gaoli had forced her to have sex.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated that the administration of President Joe Biden wants China to “provide independent and verifiable evidence” to prove Peng’s whereabouts, and expressed “deep concern about the former world number one doubles player. “.
The United Nations insists on conducting a completely transparent investigation of Peng’s claims.
Liz Srossel, spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office, told reporters in Geneva: “There is evidence that her whereabouts and health are very important.” “We call for a completely transparent investigation of her allegations of sexual assault.”
Tennis players including Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and the world’s top men’s player Novak Djokovic also expressed their support for the Chinese athlete.
“It’s terrible. I mean, one person is missing,” Djokovic said at the ATP Finals in the Italian city of Turin. “The entire tennis world needs to support her and her family to ensure her safety.”
Djokovic also supports the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA)’s statement that it is ready to cut off profitable business ties with China regarding Peng.
Djokovic said: “It would be a bit strange if you held a game on Chinese soil and didn’t solve this situation, so I understand the reasons for the WTA’s stance.”
The former Wimbledon and French Open doubles champion claimed that Zhang, who retired in 2018, “forced” her to have sex in a long and intermittent relationship.
China has largely remained silent on the tennis star. On Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs insisted on its position that it was unaware of the controversy surrounding the tennis star.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters that the matter was “not a diplomatic issue, and I don’t understand the situation.”
Peng’s post was quickly deleted from her verified account on Weibo, a popular Chinese social media platform, despite the alleged screenshots being widely shared. Discussion of the case has been suppressed ever since. The national broadcaster CGTN this week shared an e-mail purportedly sent by Peng to WTA Chairman Steve Simon, stating that she was “resting” at home and that the accusation of assault was “not true.”
Simon questioned the authenticity of this email and stated on Friday that WTA is at a “crossroads” with China and continues to make every effort to directly contact Peng.
Peng, who represented China in the Olympic Games in Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro, is not the first high-profile Chinese citizen to suddenly disappear from public view under unknown circumstances.
Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, the world’s largest e-commerce company, disappeared in October 2020 after criticizing government regulators in a speech. Soon after, the group’s online payment arm, Ant Group, cancelled a large number of stock sales at the last minute. In January of this year, Jack Ma appeared in a video again, but did not mention his disappearance.
Hollywood actress Fan Bingbing, a prolific social media user, disappeared for three months in 2018. It was later reported that she was placed under house arrest while under investigation for tax evasion.
Peng’s proposition brought the #MeToo movement to the highest level of China’s ruling party for the first time.
“The Chinese government has systematically suppressed the #MeToo movement in the country,” said Doriane Lau, a Chinese researcher at Amnesty International.
“Given its zero tolerance for criticism, Peng Shuai seems to be missing, which is deeply worrying,” she said.