International Legislators Urge China to Assure Safety of Chinese Tennis Star

By Rita Li
Rita Li
Rita Li
Rita Li is a reporter with The Epoch Times, focusing on China-related topics. She began writing for the Chinese-language edition in 2018.
November 19, 2021 Updated: November 19, 2021

Global parliamentarians called for “verifiable” guarantees from China’s ruling Party for the safety and wellbeing of disappeared Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai.

The call followed an email published a day ago by Communist Party-controlled media attributed to Peng, denying previous allegations toward a former top official and announcing her safety, which failed to quell concerns.

“The PRC government should immediately provide verifiable guarantees on Peng Shuai’s whereabouts, safety, and freedoms, and ensure that her allegations can be heard fairly and properly without fear of retaliation,” said the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) in a Nov. 19 statement.

The 35-year-old Chinese former doubles world number one has not been publicly heard from since she made an accusation in a social media post on Nov. 2, accusing Chinese ex-vice-premier, Zhang Gaoli, 75, of sexual assault.

Although China’s internet censors immediately removed the post, the high-profile allegation swirled online. The accuser’s #MeToo moment rippled through the center of the communist realm for the first time since the campaign took hold in China in 2018 and was largely tamped down.

“I know you will deny it and you will get back at me,” Peng told the accused in her now-deleted comments. She has gone missing since then.

“The PRC government has a known history of practicing enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions against those who dare to oppose its authoritarian rule, with torture, solitary confinement, and other abuses known to be used against victims of political persecution,” according to the IPAC.

The international cross-party group of parliamentarians aims to reform the way that democratic nations approach China regarding international rules and human rights abuses.

Politicians of the group are now “deeply concerned” for the safety and wellbeing of the athlete, including those from Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, European Parliament, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, Czechia, Belgium, Australia, Denmark, and France.

The email that was written in Peng’s name also worried its recipient, Steve Simon, the chairman of the Women’s Tennis Association, said in a response that he had a “hard time” believing the contents of the email.

According to a media release by U.S.-based rights group Chinese Human Rights Defenders, the China-released email—purportedly written by Peng—“should not be taken at face value.”

Peng is a former No. 1-ranked player in women’s doubles, and a two-time Grand Slam champion at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014, both alongside Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei.

Her disappearance ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics, to be hosted by Beijing in less than three months, raised “grave concern for the safety and freedoms of athletes attending the Games and a grim reminder of the repression faced by Chinese citizens every day,” the IPAC said in the statement.

The alliance previously called on government officials to take a stand against human rights abuses in China by refusing to attend the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Peng’s case has aroused international outrage across global sports. Fellow tennis players have voiced concerns over the safety of Peng, such as men’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic, World Cup winner Gerard Pique, 23-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams, and four-time Grand Slam champion 24-year-old Naomi Osaka.

Chinese Foreign Ministry has yet to respond to Peng’s situation.

Rita Li
Rita Li is a reporter with The Epoch Times, focusing on China-related topics. She began writing for the Chinese-language edition in 2018.