Chinese Tennis Star Denies Social Media Post Accusing Ex-Official of Sexual Assault

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai is denying that she wrote a social media post last month accusing a now-retired Communist Party official of sexually assaulting her. 

In a video posted Sunday on the website of the Singapore-based Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao, Peng told the interviewer she has “never said or written anything accusing anyone of sexually assaulting me,” a point she said she needed “to emphasize…very clearly.”   

Peng said in the interview that her initial post on the social media site Weibo was “a private matter” and told the interviewer she was able to move about freely.   

The newspaper said the video was taken Sunday in Shanghai, where the 35-year-old Peng was attending a skiing competition. The video showed her standing alongside former National Basketball Association star Yao Ming and other Chinese sports figures. 

Peng, a former Olympian who won titles at Wimbledon and the French Open, said on November 2 that former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli coerced her into sex before it evolved into an on-off consensual relationship. Her post was quickly deleted and she vanished from public view for several days.  She eventually appeared at a tennis event and spoke by video with Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee president, during which she said she was safe.   

Her disappearance sparked concern among some of the world’s top tennis players, including Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams, Billie Jean King and Novak Djokovic, and    

The Women’s Tennis Association suspended all of its sponsored tournaments in mainland China and Hong Kong.   

A Chinese state-run media outlet then released a statement it said was an email Peng had sent to WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon in which she denied the allegations and insisted she was not missing or unsafe, but just “resting at home, but Simon questioned the email’s legitimacy and called for an open investigation into Peng’s initial accusations.   

“We remain steadfast in our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault,” the WTA said in a statement issued after Peng’s video was posted. 

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