Women’s Tennis Association CEO: This Message Sounds Fake

Peng Shuai serving during a match at the Australian Open in 2019. (Edgar Su/Reuters)

Earlier today, Chinese state-run media ran stories purportedly quoting missing Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, who recently accused former vice premier Zhang Gaoli of coercing her into sex. (Background here.) In the alleged released statement, Peng retracted her accusation of sexual assault, said, “I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine,” and asked the Women’s Tennis Association to not publish any further news about her without verification from her. To say the released statement is unconvincing is an understatement.

The Women’s Tennis Association isn’t buying this at all. Steve Simon, Chairman & CEO of WTA, released this statement this afternoon:

“The statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts.

I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her. Peng Shuai displayed incredible courage in describing an allegation of sexual assault against a former top official in the Chinese government. The WTA and the rest of the world need independent and verifiable proof that she is safe. I have repeatedly tried to reach her via numerous forms of communications, to no avail.

Peng Shuai must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source. Her allegation of sexual assault must be respected, investigated with full transparency and without censorship.

The voices of women need to be heard and respected, not censored nor dictated to.”

The fact that we have not seen Peng Shuai on camera is particularly unnerving; it is quite possible that for making her sexual coercion accusation public, the Chinese government or allies of Zhang Gaoli have abducted her and are detaining her, or, God forbid, something even worse has happened to her.

Who is willing to play along with this demonic charade? And who is willing to stand up to this?

And should a country like this be hosting the Winter Olympics in a few months?

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