Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has denied in a video published Sunday that she has accused Zhang Gaoli, the former deputy prime minister of China, of sexual abuse. Peng disappeared shortly after she wrote on her social media in early November that Zhang had assaulted her. The short interview with the Singaporean newspaper Lianhe Zaobao at a cross-country event in Shanghai is her first live performance in weeks. Whether Peng spoke freely on Sunday and without pressure from the Chinese authorities cannot be verified.
The message she posted on Weibo in early November was removed shortly after publication. Weibo is a Chinese social medium that is very similar to Twitter. Since then, nothing more has been heard of Peng, which has caused great concern for human rights organizations and the tennis world. “I have to emphasize one point that is extremely important, I have never said or written that anyone has sexually abused me,” said the 35-year-old tennis player on Sunday. She didn’t say a word about Zhang.
After Peng posted her message on Weibo in early November, she disappeared from the radar. After weeks, an email from her to women’s tennis association WTA surfaced, in which she is said to have said that she is doing well, although WTA strongly doubted its authenticity. The tennis association decided in protest to no longer organize tennis tournaments in China, mainly because of the lack of information from the Chinese authorities about the tennis star’s well-being.
In the video published Sunday, Peng says what she wrote in early November is a “private matter” that “many people” have misunderstood. She also says that she was at home in Beijing all along — there would be no supervision at all. “Why should that be the case? I’ve always been very free,” said the tennis star.
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