The controversy surrounding the whereabouts of Peng Shuai has taken a new twist, with the Chinese tennis star insisting in a video interview that she never accused a high-ranking Chinese leader of forcing her to have sex with him; the very accusation that resulted in her disappearance from public view.
What Happened: According to a BBC report, Peng gave her first interview since her disappearance last month to Lianhe Zaobao, a Chinese-language newspaper in Singapore. During the interview, Peng claimed: "I have never said or written that anyone sexually assaulted me. This point must be emphasized very clearly.”
This statement contradicted Peng’s Nov. 2 posting on the Weibo WB social media site accusing former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of repeatedly coercing her to have sex with him at his home. The interview did not dwell on the Weibo posting, which Chinese censors removed within a half-hour of its going online.
Peng added in her interview that she was not under surveillance by the Chinese government.
“Why would anyone monitor me?” she said. “I have always been very free.”
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What It Means: The interview took place at a promotional event for the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics, where Peng appeared with prominent athletes, including basketball player Yao Ming. Lianhe Zaobao is read in China and is seen as being supportive of the Chinese government in its coverage.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), which canceled its China-based events after Peng’s disappearance, issued a statement questioning the athlete’s well-being and the circumstances of her being removed from public view in China, which included her near-total erasure from the nation’s social media and broadcast channels.
"As we have consistently stated, these appearances do not alleviate or address the WTA's significant concerns about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion," the WTA said. "We remain steadfast in our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern."
Photo: Claude TRUONG-NGOC/Wikimedia Commons
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