Peng Shuai, Where are You? China’s Tennis Star Resigns After Sexual Assault Accused by the Government


Three-time Olympian Peng Shuai from China, who won titles at Wimbledon, the French Open and Wimbledon, has been expelled from public life following allegations of sexual assault by a former official in the Chinese Communist Party.

Now, the international community, including tennis players like Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams, and even the United Nations’ Human Rights office are putting pressure on China, whose officials continue to deny any knowledge of the controversy.

Here’s what we know so far:

Peng’s Last Message on Social Media 

Peng posted a Weibo post in Chinese on November 2 accusing Zhang Gaoli, former Vice Premier, of sexual assault.

In the post, she claimed that Zhang, 75, and her had been in an ongoing relationship for many years. At times, it was consensual. Wall Street Journal reported.

She also stated that Zhang did sometimes force herself on her. This began with an attack three years ago when Zhang invited her to his house to play tennis with his wife. CBS Sports reported.

“I was so scared that afternoon,”Peng wrote. “I never gave consent, crying the entire time.”

According to CBS Sports, a guard was standing outside the door, while she was being attacked, she claimed.

“I know that for someone of your stature, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, you have said that you are not afraid,”Peng wrote. “But even if it is like throwing an egg against rock, or if I am like a moth drawn to the flame, inviting self-destruction, I will tell the truth about you.”

The post disappeared about 20 minutes after she shared it, and Peng’s name has been blocked as a search term on Weibo and other Chinese social media platforms.

Since then, Peng has never been seen in public.

Women’s Tennis Association’s Response

About two weeks later, on November 14, WTA Chairman Steve Simon called for Chinese authorities to investigate Peng’s claims in a statement published byThe WTA Tour.

“In all societies, the behavior she alleges that took place needs to be investigated, not condoned or ignored,” the Statement read. “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.”

He also said the organization hadn’t been able to reach Peng following the accusation, the Wall Street Journal reported.

An Email Many Believe Peng Did Not Write

Days later, on November 17, Chinese state-owned television broadcasted a screenshot of an email they claimed Peng sent to Simon, assuring him everything is fine.

“Hello everyone this is Peng Shuai,”The email starts. “The news in that release, including the allegation of sexual assault, is not true. I’m not missing, nor am I unsafe. I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine.”  

Simon replied that he had doubts about the author of the email.

“The statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts,”He stated this in a Statement. “I have a hard time believing that Peng Shuai actually wrote the email we received or believes what is being attributed to her.”

He repeated his assertion that he had tried to contact her through many forms of communication, but she has never heard back.

WTA’s Presence in China in Jeopardy

The following day, Simon threatened to pull WTA business out of China unless the country confirmed Peng’s safety and investigated the allegations against Zhang.

“We’re definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it,”Simon shared his thoughts with CNN. “Because this is certainly, this is bigger than the business. Women need to be respected and not censored.”

China Denies Any Controversy

On Friday November 19, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry claimed they were not aware of any concerns surrounding Peng’s well-being or sexual assault claims and said it is “not a diplomatic question and I’m not aware of the situation,” according to the Associated Press.

International Outrage

The United Nations Human Rights Office is now demanding proof of Peng’s well-being.

“Our opinion is that proof of her location and well-being would be crucial, and that an investigation be conducted with all transparency into the allegations of sexual assault.” spokesperson Liz Throssell told reporters Friday, according to CNN. “According to information available, the former world number two is No. Since she posted on social media about being sexually assaulted, 1 has not been heard from public. We would stress that it is important to know where she is and know her state, know about her well-being.”

Now, what?

Tennis players and athletes around the world have taken to social media to urge for Peng’s safe return.


The White House has also expressed its concerns about Peng’s disappearance. Jen Psaki, White House Press secretary, spoke to reporters Friday. “We are deeply concerned by reports that Peng Shuai appears to be missing after accusing a former PRC (Peoples Republic of China) senior official of sexual assaults. We join in the calls for PRC authorities to provide independent and verifiable proof of her whereabouts and that she is safe,”According to CNN.

And with the Beijing Winter Olympics’ kick-off just months away, it is unclear how Peng’s disappearance will impact the athletic community around the world.

According to President Joe Biden, the U.S. considers a diplomatic boycott for the Olympics due to other human rights violations, such as its treatment of Uyghurs and crackdown on free speech in Hong Kong. The boycott would result in government officials not attending the Olympics, though athletes will be permitted to compete, according to the New York Times.


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