Sports

Tennis star Peng Shuai tells newspaper she was never assaulted by top government official

Peng Shuai
Posted at 8:44 AM, Dec 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-20 08:44:36-05

BEIJING — Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has denied saying she was sexually assaulted, despite a November social media post attributed to her that accused a former top Communist Party official of forcing her into sex.

The Lianhe Zaobao posted a video of Peng that the newspaper says was taken Sunday in Shanghai. In the video, Peng says she has been mainly staying at home in Beijing but was free to come and go as she chose.

“First of all, I want to emphasize something that is very important. I have never said that I wrote that anyone sexually assaulted me. I need to emphasize this point very clearly,” Peng told the newspaper’s reporter.

WTA chief executive Steve Simon questioned the emailed statement’s legitimacy while others said it only increased their concern about her safety. 

Peng dropped out of sight several weeks ago after alleging former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli sexually assaulted her. Soon after she levied the allegation on Chinese social media, it was removed from the platform.

Screenshots of the post were widely shared, drawing widespread concern about Peng's safety.

Peng's silence had alarmed the world's top tennis stars, including Serena Williams. Earlier this year, the Women's Tennis Association announced it would not hold tournaments in China next year over its concerns for Peng's safety and freedom.

"While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation," Simon said in a statement earlier this month.