Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has insisted she “never claimed” she had been sexually assaulted by a former Chinese Communist Party official.
A report in The Guardian stated that Peng’s claim – made in an interview with Singapore media – “apparently contradicted a November 2 social media post, in which Peng accused the former vice premier Zhang Gaoli of having coerced her into sex”.
That social media post, on Weibo, was removed soon after it was published and Peng disappeared from public view for more than two weeks, prompting widespread concern about her wellbeing.
But Peng has now claimed in an interview with Lianhe Zaobao, a Singapore government-controlled Chinese language publication in Singapore, that there had been “a lot of misunderstanding”.
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“I wanted to make this very clear: I have never claimed, or written about anyone having sexually assaulted me,” Peng said. “With regards to Weibo, it’s about my personal privacy … There’s been a lot of misunderstanding … There [should be] no distorted interpretation.”
A video emerged at the weekend of Peng in conversation with former Chinese NBA basketball star Yao Ming and another person.
The video was reportedly taken during the FIS Cross-Country Skiing China City Tour in Shanghai.
When Peng disappeared from public view in November, some of the world’s biggest tennis stars, including Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic – tennis authorities and human rights groups expressed concern for her safety.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) announced it was suspending all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong.” In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault,’’ WTA chairman and chief executive Steve Simon said at the time. “Given the current state of affairs, I am also greatly concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff could face if we were to hold events in China in 2022.
An email, purported to be from Peng to Simon, was later published by the state-run English language China Global Television Network (CGTN). It included a quote from Peng saying: “The news in that release, including the allegation of sexual assault, is not true. I’m not missing, nor I am unsafe. I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine. Thank you again for caring about me.”
Simon later said the published email was “100 per cent orchestrated’’.
Peng said in her interview with Lianhe Zaobao that she wrote an email in Chinese to Simon, but the one published by CGTN was a translation, although “they more or less said the same thing’’.
Peng was photographed with other Chinese athletes at the Cross-Country Skiing tour in Shanghai.