WTA release statement on investigation of Peng Shuai’s censorship and disappearance
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) have said in a statement that Peng Shuai “deserves to be heard, not censored” after she accused a former Chinese Vice-Premier of sexual assault.
Doubles player Peng Shuai, aged 35, alleged through Chinese social media website Weibo that she was forced into a sexual relationship with the former Chinese Vice-Premier, 75-year-old Zhang Gaoli. Although, she acknowledged that she would be unable to provide proof to substantiate her claims.
Zhang was a close ally of President Xi Jinping after having served as the senior Vice-Premier between 2013 and 2018. He has also not responded to Peng’s accusations.
Peng’s original Weibo post was deleted from the website within 20 minutes and other relevant keywords, discussion posts and threads were also removed. Peng has not been heard from publicly since she first made the allegations on the 2nd November.
This is the first time such allegations have been levelled at a senior politician within the Chinese Communist Party.
Peng is one of China’s biggest sporting stars. She is a former World number one doubles player and two time Grand Slam doubles champion, winning Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014.
WTA chairman Steve Simon told the New York Times that the WTA had received confirmation that Peng was “safe and not under any physical threat.” However, Simon also claimed that no one within the WTA had been able to contact her.
Amidst the growing concerns for her well-being, Chinese activists and feminists projected messages reading “Where is Peng Shuai?” and “say no to sexual harassment, gender-based violence and discrimination.”
— FreeChineseFeminists (@FeministChina) November 14, 2021
In the statement, the WTA deem the events to be “deeply concerning” and commend Peng for her bravery in coming forward.
“The recent events in China concerning a WTA player, Peng Shuai, are of deep concern. As an organization dedicated to women, we remain committed to the principles we were founded on – equality, opportunity and respect.
“Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored. Her accusation about the conduct of a former Chinese leader involving a sexual assault must be treated with the utmost seriousness.
“In all societies, the behaviour she alleges that took place needs to be investigated, not condoned or ignored. We commend Peng Shuai for her remarkable courage and strength in coming forward. Women around the world are finding their voices so injustices can be corrected.
“We expect this issue to be handled properly, meaning the allegations must be investigated fully, fairly, transparently and without censorship.
“Our absolute and unwavering priority is the health and safety of our players. We are speaking out so justice can be done.”
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