Tennis Player Peng Shuai Not Seen Since Making Assault Allegations: Naomi Osaka and Other Stars Concerned

Naomi Osaka and other tennis stars are concerned about colleague Peng Shuai after she disappeared from public view after accusing a Chinese former vice premier of sexual assault.

By Corinne Heller Nov 17, 2021 5:32 PMTags
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Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai has disappeared from public view since making allegations of sexual assault against a former vice premier, and fans and members of the tennis community are worried about her.

On Nov. 2, the 35-year-old athlete had said in a since-deleted post on Weibo that Zhang Gaoli, a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Chinese Communist Party who served as vice premier between 2013 and 2018, coerced her into sex three years ago. She also claimed they had had an on-off consensual relationship. Peng has not been seen or heard from publicly since making the accusations and Chinese government censors have blocked related search terms from search engines accessed locally.

"I was recently informed of a fellow tennis player that has gone missing shortly after revealing that she has been sexually abused," fellow tennis star Naomi Osaka tweeted on Tuesday, Nov. 16. "Censorship is never ok at any cost, I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and ok. I'm in shock of the current situation and I'm sending love and light her way."

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Osaka also shared the hashtag #whereispengshuai," which went viral following Peng's post and subsequent disappearance from public view.

"Hoping that Peng Shuai is found safe and that her accusations are fully investigated," tweeted legendary tennis champion Billie Jean King, while former world No. 1 star Chris Evert wrote, "Yes, these accusations are very disturbing. I've known Peng since she was 14; we should all be concerned; this is serious; where is she? Is she safe? Any information would be appreciated."

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China's Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment when reached by NBC News and Zhang, who retired in 2018 and is no longer in the public eye, could not be reached for a response, the outlet said.

On Sunday, Nov. 14, the Women's Tennis Association's chair and chief executive, Steve Simon, told The New York Times, "We've received confirmation from several sources, including the Chinese Tennis Association, that she is safe and not under any physical threat."

However, he also said no one associated with the WTA Tour had been able to reach the athlete directly to confirm her status, adding, "My understanding is that she is in Beijing in China, but I can't confirm that because I haven't spoken directly with her."

Simon also said in a statement that Peng's "allegations must be investigated fully, fairly, transparently and without censorship."

"Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored," he said. "Her accusation about the conduct of a former Chinese leader involving a sexual assault must be treated with the utmost seriousness. In all societies, the behavior she alleges that took place needs to be investigated, not condoned or ignored. We commend Peng Shuai for her remarkable courage and strength in coming forward. Women around the world are finding their voices so injustices can be corrected."

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