WTA expresses “deep concern” at reports Chinese player Peng Shuai is missing

Chinese veteran Peng Shuai has not been seen in more than a week after accusing a vice premier of sexual assault

Peng Shuai WUHAN, Sept. 23, 2019 Peng Shuai of China reacts during the women’s singles first round match between Garbine Muguruza of Spain and Peng Shuai of China at the 2019 WTA Wuhan Open tennis tournament in Wuhan of central China’s Hubei Province, Sept. 23, 2019

The WTA expressed its “deep concern” on Sunday amid reports that Chinese player Peng Shuai has gone missing after she alleged that a former high-ranking official had sexually abused her.

Peng has not been seen or heard of since making posting a message on Chinese social media site Weibo earlier this month and in a statement on Sunday, the WTA said it was speaking out “so justice can be done”.

“The recent events in China concerning a WTA player, Peng Shuai, are of deep concern,” WTA chief Steve Simon said in a statement. “As an organization dedicated to women, we remain committed to the principles we were founded on – equality, opportunity and respect.

“Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored. 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.

“We expect this issue to be handled properly, meaning the allegations must be investigated fully, fairly, transparently and without censorship. Our absolute and unwavering priority is the health and safety of our players. We are speaking out so justice can be done.”

There has been little word from the tennis world regarding Peng’s unknown whereabouts, but finally one fellow WTA player spoke up on Saturday. Alize Cornet took to Twitter for a plea to end the silence.

Responses to Cornet’s tweet using the #WhereIsPengShuai hashtag were plentiful.

Peng’s accusations were directed at 75-year-old Zhang Gaoli. The 35-year-old tennis player reportedly began an affair with him back in 2011. He cut it off while in office but the relationship was rekindled in in 2018 after Zhang retired from politics. Peng’s post indicated that she tried to resist Zhang’s advances when the affair restarted three years ago.

Peng is currently ranked 191st in doubles and 281st in singles. She reached No 1 in doubles in February of 2014 and she is a former world No 11 in singles (reached that mark in 2011).

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