Peng Shuai: Chinese language tennis star denies making sexual assault allegation towards Zhang Gaoli, however WTA considerations persist


“I’ve by no means spoken or written about anybody sexually assaulting me,” Peng advised Singapore-based Chinese language-language newspaper Lianhe Zaobao on Sunday, in her first feedback to worldwide media because the explosive allegations got here to gentle.

When requested if she has been in a position to transfer freely or was involved about her security, Peng mentioned she has “at all times been free” and that she has been dwelling at her dwelling in Beijing. 

The interview passed off on the sidelines of the Worldwide Ski Federation’s cross-country snowboarding competitors in Shanghai on Sunday, the place Peng was additionally photographed with Chinese language basketball legend Yao Ming, and two former Olympians: sailor Xu Lijia and desk tennis participant Wang Liqin.

Peng mentioned there was a misunderstanding in regards to the since-deleted social media publish on her verified account on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform, which detailed the allegations on November 2.

“To begin with, it is my private privateness. There presumably has been loads of misunderstanding. Subsequently, there shouldn’t be such distorted interpretation right here,” she mentioned.

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In accordance with screenshots of that publish, the two-time Grand Slam doubles champion accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of pressuring her into having intercourse at his dwelling three years in the past.

The fast response from Chinese language authorities was to censor any point out of the accusation on-line and block Peng’s Weibo account from search outcomes. Peng disappeared from public view for greater than two weeks, prompting the world’s greatest tennis stars and the United Nations to demand solutions as to her whereabouts — in addition to a full investigation into her allegations towards Zhang.

Chinese language authorities haven’t acknowledged the sexual assault allegations towards Zhang and dialogue of the topic continues to be censored in China.

Amid rising international outcry, people working for Chinese language government-controlled media and the state sports activities system launched plenty of “proof of life” pictures and movies of Peng. The Worldwide Olympic Committee (IOC) mentioned it held at the least two video calls along with her, saying the Chinese language tennis star “reconfirmed” she was secure and effectively.

In Sunday’s interview, Peng expressed her appreciation towards the IOC, saying she feels “very grateful” to the Olympic physique and was “very blissful to have video calls with them.”

Peng additionally mentioned she wrote an e-mail to WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon recanting the allegations “fully of my very own will.” On the time, Simon questioned the validity of the e-mail and mentioned “we can’t be comfy till we have now an opportunity to talk along with her.”
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A spokesperson for the WTA advised CNN on Monday, “it was once more good to see Peng Shuai in a public setting and we definitely hope she is doing effectively.

“As we have now constantly acknowledged, these appearances don’t alleviate or deal with the WTA’s vital considerations about her well-being and skill to speak with out censorship or coercion. We stay steadfast in our name for a full, truthful and clear investigation, with out censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the problem that gave rise to our preliminary concern.”

The incident led to the the WTA asserting a right away suspension of all tournaments in China, together with Hong Kong, on December 1. CEO Simon mentioned the choice was primarily based on the “unacceptable” response of Chinese language officers, together with speeding to censor Peng’s allegations and ignoring requires a full and clear investigation.
The saga comes just some months forward of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, an occasion which a number of Western nations have mentioned their diplomats will boycott over China’s human rights report.
China’s International Ministry mentioned the federal government hoped “malicious hypothesis” about Peng’s well-being and whereabouts would cease, and that her case shouldn’t be politicized. The ministry has additionally mentioned Peng’s scenario “was not a diplomatic difficulty.”

CNN has repeatedly reached out for remark to each Peng and China’s State Council, which handles press inquires for the central authorities.

As vice premier, Zhang, 75, served on the social gathering’s seven-person Politiburo Standing Committee — the nation’s supreme management physique — alongside President Xi Jinping from 2012 to 2017.

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