Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai said on Dec. 19 that she had never accused anyone of sexually assaulting her, and that her post on social media had been misunderstood.
In a six-minute interview with Singapore’s pro-Beijing Chinese-language media Lianhe Zaobao, Peng said she was not under house arrest and her posts were misunderstood.
On Nov. 2, Peng, 35, posted on Chinese social media Weibo that China’s ex-vice premier, Zhang Gaoli, 75, with the help of his wife, forced her to have sex with him. Peng’s posts were removed from the internet shortly after, before she disappeared from the public eye for nearly three weeks. In her reappearances after that she was accompanied by Chinese officials.
Peng’s well-being has since become a matter of concern among the global tennis community and rights groups. The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) even moved to halt all matches in mainland China and Hong Kong indefinitely on Dec. 1 over concerns for Peng.
“Sunday’s video looks like an intentionally arranged one,” said U.S.-based China affairs commentator Tang Jingyuan.
Tang told The Epoch Times on Dec. 19 that while it appears as though the reporter from Lianhe Zaobao stopped Peng and interviewed her on the spot, the questions and Peng’s reactions both seem pre-arranged.
“Peng didn’t deny the unethical relationships with Zhang, nor explain why she didn’t update her Weibo to clarify the misunderstandings. Even all Peng’s photos and videos that were released in the past month were published by state-run media, rather than herself,” Tang said. “I’m worried about Peng’s freedom.”
Peng’s New Video
On Dec. 19, Peng first spoke on camera about the alleged sexual assault when she attended a cross-country skiing event in Shanghai, China.
“First, I need to stress one point that is extremely important: I have never said or written that anyone has sexually assaulted me, I have to clearly stress this point,” Peng told Lianhe Zaobao.
She said what she posted on Weibo was a “private matter,” and “people have many misunderstandings” about her posts. Talking about her life, Peng said she had lived at her home in Beijing the whole time and she had freedom to do her things.
Peng talked about the email that she sent to WTA chief Steve Simon on Dec. 2. “The Chinese email is written by myself. CGTN (Chinese state-run China Global Television Network) translated it into English and posted it on its twitter.”
Simon had said at the time that he “had a hard time believing” that Peng had actually written the email or believed what had been attributed to her.
During the six-minute interview, Peng didn’t mention Zhang’s name, nor explain the misunderstandings.
On Sunday, Peng watched the skiing game together with Chinese sports officials, including former NBA player and current Chairman of Chinese Basketball Association Yao Ming, and vice Chair of Chinese Table Tennis Association Wang Liqin, according to Lianhe Zaobao.
In the video, Peng wears a red T-shirt, which has the characters for China, and a black down coat that has “China” in English and the Chinese flag.
Reuters contributed to this report.