The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) issued a statement on Sunday calling for a “full, fair, and transparent investigation” into sexual assault allegations made by Chinese tennis star, Peng Shuai, against China’s former vice premier.
WTA Chairman & CEO Steve Simon said in the statement, “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.”
Peng Shuai, 35, formerly ranked world number one in doubles, revealed her multi-year long “coerced sexual relationship” with Zhang Gaoli on China’s Twitter-like social media app Weibo. Zhang Gaoli, 75, was China’s vice premier between 2013 and 2018, and remains a high-profile political figure among the highest-ranking Chinese Communist Party officials.
Peng’s original post was deleted shortly after its release and her Weibo account was frozen. However, the post had already gone viral and was being widely re-posted. International media outlets have been calling this China’s #MeToo claim. Peng has since disappeared from public view, both online and in person.
The WTA has also called for an “end of censorship against Peng Shuai.”
The hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai has been trending on Twitter.
The international tennis community has also expressed concerns. Chris Evert, an American former world No. 1 tennis player, wrote on Twitter, “I’ve known Peng since she was 14; we should all be concerned; this is serious; where is she? Is she safe?”
Alizé Cornet, a French professional tennis player formerly ranked WTA singles world No. 11, wrote on Twitter, “Let’s not remain silent.”
Liam Tarquin Broady, a professional tennis player and current British No. 4, wrote: “I can’t believe this is even happening in the 21st century #WhereIsPengShuai?”
“The fact that Peng Shuai is missing is not only the WTA’s problem. We are all concerned,” Nicolas Pierre Armand Mahut, a French professional tennis player and former world No. 1 in doubles, said on Twitter.
Peng’s deleted Weibo post was dated Nov. 2. In the post, Peng directly addressed Zhang.
“As a vice premier, you said you were not afraid. I know that my exposing what has really happened between us is like hitting a rock with an egg. I still want to reveal it. With your smarts and your power, I know you will deny it and you will get back at me,” Peng said.