Suspicion over Chinese tennis star’s email raises safety concerns

Suspicion over Chinese tennis star’s email raises safety concerns

Taipei – No Chinese professional tennis player has appeared in public since she accused a former senior government official of sexual assault for allegedly sending an email claiming she was safe and that the claim was false, a message that only magnified concerns about her safety and demanded information about her safety and whereabouts.

So far, those calls have been met with silence.

Chinese officials have said nothing publicly since the accusation made about two weeks ago by Grand Slam doubles champion Peng Shuai that she was sexually assaulted by Zhang Gaoli. The first #MeToo issue that reached the political sphere in China was not reported by local media, and online discussion about it was heavily censored.

Steve Simon, chairman and chief executive of the Women’s Tennis Association, questioned the authenticity of what Chinese state media said was an email addressed to him that Ping says is safe and that the assault allegations are untrue. It was published Thursday by CGTN, the international arm of China’s state broadcaster CCTV.

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Simon wrote: “I find it hard to believe that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or what is attributed to her.”

He added that the statement “only concerns me about her safety and whereabouts.”

Simon has demanded a full investigation, and the WTA has said it is ready to withdraw tournaments from the country if it does not get the appropriate response. Top players including Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic spoke out, and the WhereisPengShuai hashtag became popular online.

Serena Williams chirp She was “shattered and shocked to hear the news” about Bing.

“Hope you are safe and that she is found ASAP,” Williams wrote. “This must be investigated and we must not remain silent.”

ITF spokeswoman Heather Buller said Thursday that the governing body is in contact with the Chinese Tennis Association and is communicating with the Women’s Tennis Association and the International Olympic Committee.

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“Player safety is always our top priority, and we support a full and transparent investigation into this matter,” Bowler wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “While we have not spoken to the player, we are in contact with the China National Tennis Association (CTA) should they be able to provide any further information or updates.”

China has largely suppressed the #MeToo movement, which briefly blossomed in 2018 and is pushing ahead with the Beijing Winter Olympics in February despite calls for a boycott by activists and some politicians abroad over China’s human rights record.

In response to a frequently asked question about the case, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said again on Thursday that he was not aware of it.

The 35-year-old is a former number one women’s doubles player who won titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014.

She wrote in a lengthy social media post on November 2 that Zhang, a former deputy prime minister and a member of the ruling Communist Party’s top leadership committee, forced her to have sex despite repeated refusals three years ago.

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The post was quickly deleted from her verified account on Weibo, a leading Chinese social media platform, but screenshots of the explosive accusation quickly spread online in China. She has not appeared in public since, raising questions about her whereabouts and whether she is being held.

Zhang, 75, withdrew from the public eye after retiring in 2018, as is the norm for former top officials. It is not known that he has any close links with the current leaders.

Ping’s indictment is the first high-profile sexual assault accusation against a powerful politician in China. Previous accusations have targeted prominent figures in the nonprofit world, academia and the media, but have never reached top Communist Party officials or state-owned companies.

CGTN posted the statement on Twitter, which is banned in China along with several other foreign platforms such as Google and Facebook. He didn’t post it on Chinese social media, nor was there any mention of the alleged email behind the Great Firewall, which separates the Chinese internet from the rest of the world.

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Some internet users circumvented the controls and posted the news in private social media groups. Freeweibo.com, which records censored posts from Weibo, said searches for “Peng Shuai” and “Zhang Gaoli” were among the top 10 searches on Thursday.

Searches for the name Peng Shuai on the Chinese search engine Sogou return only articles about her tennis career. Her Weibo account no longer allows comments, and no results will appear if people search for her Weibo account.

Peng wrote that Zhang’s wife was guarding the door during the alleged attack, which followed a tennis tour. Her posts also said that they had sex seven years ago and she had feelings for him after that. She also said that she knew raising her voice would be difficult.

“Yes, apart from myself, I kept no evidence, no recordings, no videos, only the true experience of my twisted self. Even if I destroy myself, like throwing an egg on a rock, or a butterfly flying in a flame, I will still speak,” said the now-deleted post. About the truth about us.

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Her claim came just three months before Beijing hosts the Winter Olympics, which has been the target of a boycott campaign by several human rights organizations over China’s suppression of Uyghur Muslims. The Games face a possible diplomatic boycott by the United States and other countries. Rights groups have likened the 2022 Beijing Olympics to Hitler’s 1936 Olympics in Berlin. China has consistently denied any human rights abuses and says its actions are part of counter-terrorism programs.

Peng has played in three Olympics. “We have reviewed the latest reports and are encouraged by the assurances that she is fine,” the IOC said Thursday in a statement.

The Swiss-based IOC, which derives 73% of its income from selling broadcasting rights and another 18% from sponsors, has not criticized China, often repeating that it is merely a sports company and has no power to act on the policies of a sovereign country. condition.

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The WTA can handle the pressure better because it is less dependent on income from China than the IOC or the NBA. The NBA lost an estimated $400 million in broadcasting rights when China suspended its 2019-20 season after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of protesters in Hong Kong.

The WTA Finals were held in Mexico this month due to the pandemic, and the event is scheduled to return in 2022 to Shenzhen, China.

The WTA holds a number of tournaments in China, and the WTA Finals are scheduled there until 2030. In 2019, there were eight WTA tournaments as part of the China swing after the US Open and just months before the spread of epidemic in early 2020.

Simon’s statement said that Peng showed incredible courage, but he was still concerned about her safety.

“The WTA and the rest of the world need independent and verifiable evidence of its integrity,” he wrote. “I have repeatedly tried to reach her through many forms of communication, but to no avail.”

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Associated Press sports writer Stephen Wade contributed in Tokyo.

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