Women’s Tennis Association Chairman and CEO Steve Simon said Wednesday that he had a hard time believing an email supposedly written by missing Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai and released by Chinese state media was legitimate.
Peng, 35, disappeared after publishing a lengthy social media post in which she claimed that Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier and member of the Chinese Communist Party’s powerful Politburo Standing Committee, had coerced her into sex despite repeated refusals following a round of tennis three years ago.
The post disappeared from her verified Weibo account, and China’s state-controlled media appears to have suppressed any reporting on the case. Peng also disappeared from the public since making the post.
Peng allegedly wrote an email to CGTN, a China-state-affiliated media company. The email appeared to walk back Peng’s sexual misconduct claims and insisted that she was perfectly safe.
“I’m not missing, nor am I unsafe. I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine. Thank you for caring about me,” she wrote.
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Simon, who has called for an investigation into Peng’s allegations, said he had a “hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email.”
“Peng Shuai displayed remarkable courage in describing an allegation regarding sexual assault against a former top Chinese government official. The WTA and the rest need independent, verifiable proof that she’s safe. Simon stated that he tried numerous times to reach her via various forms of communication, but to no avail.
Simon said Peng Shuai must be free to express herself, “without coercion nor intimidation from any source.”
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Peng’s accusation was the first against a prominent government official since the #MeToo movement took hold in China in 2018 before being largely tamped down by authorities the same year.
When asked during a daily briefing on Monday about Peng’s allegation, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said: “I have not heard of the matter, and it is not a diplomatic question.”
In response to another question at Wednesday’s daily briefing, Zhao said he had no knowledge of Peng’s situation.
“Do you believe the spokesperson of China’s Foreign Ministry is omnipotent?” Zhao asked a reporter. “I suggest you ask relevant authorities about the pertinent question.”
This report was contributed by The Associated Press.
Source: Fox News