WTA chief doubtful of veracity of Chinese state media’s email from Peng Shuai
Chinese State Media outlet CGTN has released an email from Peng Shuai, but WTA chairman and chief executive Steve Simon has a “hard time believing she wrote it.”
Peng Shuai has apparently been missing and has not been seen nor heard from publicly since she alleged on the 2nd November that she was forced and coerced into a sexual relationship with former Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli.
Peng made the accusations through Chinese social media website Weibo, but her post was removed just 20 minutes after being posted.
The WTA, ATP and other high profile sports stars have raised concerns over Peng’s well-being and safety, including World number one Novak Djokovic, 18-time WTA Grand Slam title champion Chris Evert, Naomi Osaka and Alizé Cornet.
In response to worldwide concerns, Chinese state controlled TV network CGTN released what they said was a statement from Peng Shuai herself claiming that the allegations she made were false. However, this only heightened concerns.
Further scepticism arose as a type cursor can be seen in the screenshot of the email and the statement was not published on any network within China.
Moreover, the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) advocacy group, said the statement “should not be taken at face value” and that “the Chinese government has a long history of arbitrarily detaining people involved in controversial cases, controlling their ability to speak freely, and making them give forced statements.”
The WTA chairman Steve Simon then released a statement in response to Peng Shuai’s email that read, “the statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts.
“I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her.
“Peng Shuai displayed incredible courage in describing an allegation of sexual assault against a former top official in the Chinese government.
“The WTA and the rest of the world need independent and verifiable proof that she is safe. I have repeatedly tried to reach her via numerous forms of communication, to no avail.
“Peng Shuai must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source. Her allegation of sexual assault must be respected, investigated with full transparency and without censorship,” Simon urged.
“The voices of women need to be heard and respected, not censored nor dictated to.”
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