Disappearance of player Peng Shuai: women’s tennis boss threatens to withdraw China from the circuit

The Peng Shuai case is gaining momentum. The tennis world has not heard from the player since she accused a former senior Communist regime official in early November of forcing her to have sex. Faced with this lingering silence, Steve Simon, the boss of the WTA, which manages the women’s professional tennis circuit, has threatened to withdraw women’s tennis competitions from China, if Beijing does not clarify the matter.

“We are quite ready to withdraw [de Chine] our activities and to deal with all the complications that arise from them ”, he said, Thursday, November 18, in an interview with the American channel CNN. “Because these are [des accusations de viols et que c’est] more important than business ”, added Simon.

Peng Shuai, 35, on social media accused former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli – who was, from 2013 to 2018, one of China’s seven most powerful politicians – of having forced into a sexual relationship three years ago, before making her his mistress.

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This accusation was briefly posted on November 2 on the official Weibo account, Chinese equivalent of Twitter, of the player. China quickly blocked any reference to this message. Zhang Gaoli has never publicly reacted to these accusations since then, and Chinese state broadcaster CGTN on Wednesday unveiled on Twitter, a screenshot of an email attributed to Peng Shuai, which the player allegedly sent to WTA management, and which denies the sexual assault charges.

The content of this message raised doubts as to its authenticity: Twitter users noted that a cursor was visible on the message broadcast by CGTN, an inexplicable phenomenon for a screenshot.

Un hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai

“I don’t believe that’s the truth at all”, Simon told CNN, calling “Staging” the email in question. “If she was forced to write it, if someone wrote it for her, we don’t know (…) but as long as we have not spoken to him in person, we will not be reassured ”, said the WTA official.

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Asked several times, the spokespersons of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they were completely ignorant of this affair, which they refused to comment on, arguing that it was not a diplomatic issue.

The mystery surrounding the fate of the Chinese player arouses many reactions. The hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai (“where is Peng Shua”) flourishes on social networks and has been used by many personalities including Japanese player Naomi Osaka. American Serena Williams added her voice to this mobilization; “It must be investigated and we must not remain silent”, wrote the world tennis star on Twitter.

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Disappearance of player Peng Shuai: women’s tennis boss threatens to withdraw China from the circuit