Who, and Where, Is Chinese Tennis Star Peng Shuai?


A easy query has gripped the sports activities world and drawn the eye of the White House, United Nations and others:

Where is Peng Shuai?

The Chinese tennis star disappeared from public view for weeks this month after she accused a top Chinese leader of sexual assault, prompting a worldwide refrain of concern for her security. Then, this weekend, the editor of a Communist Party-controlled newspaper posted video clips that seem to indicate Ms. Peng consuming at a restaurant and attending a tennis occasion in Beijing.

A high official in ladies’s tennis, Steve Simon, stated it was “positive” to see the videos, although he stated he remained skeptical that Ms. Peng was making selections freely. China’s authoritarian authorities has an extended file of iron-fisted remedy of people that threaten to undermine public confidence within the social gathering’s senior leaders.

With only some months to go earlier than Beijing hosts the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, Ms. Peng’s case might change into one other level of stress in China’s more and more fractious relationship with the broader world.

Peng Shuai, 35 — her household identify is pronounced “pung,” and the tip of her given identify rhymes with “why” — is a three-time Olympian whose tennis profession started greater than 20 years in the past.

In February 2014, after successful the doubles crown at Wimbledon with Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan the yr earlier than, Ms. Peng rose to change into a world No. 1 in doubles, the primary Chinese participant, male or feminine, to realize the highest rank in both singles or doubles. She and Ms. Hsieh took the 2014 French Open doubles title as nicely.

Her doubles profession underwent a resurgence in 2016 and 2017. But in 2018, she was barred from professional play for six months, with a three-month suspension, after she was discovered to have tried to make use of “coercion” and monetary incentives to alter her Wimbledon doubles companion after the sign-in deadline. She has not competed professionally since early 2020.

Late on the night on Nov. 2, Ms. Peng posted an extended word on the Chinese social platform Weibo that exploded throughout the Chinese web.

In the posting, she accused Zhang Gaoli, 75, a former vice premier, of inviting her to his dwelling about three years in the past and coercing her into intercourse. “That afternoon, I didn’t consent at first,” she wrote. “I was crying the entire time.”

She and Mr. Zhang started a consensual, if conflicted, relationship after that, she wrote. Mr. Zhang had served from 2012 to 2017 on China’s high ruling physique, the Politburo Standing Committee.

Within minutes, censors scrubbed Ms. Peng’s account from the Chinese web. A digital blackout on her accusations has been in place ever since.

Women in China who come ahead as victims of sexual assault and predation have lengthy been met with censorship and pushback. But Ms. Peng’s account, which has not been corroborated, is the primary to implicate such a high-level Communist Party chief, which is why the authorities might have been additional diligent in silencing all dialogue of the matter, at one level even blocking on-line searches for the phrase “tennis.”

The censors may need succeeded had Mr. Simon, the top of the Women’s Tennis Association, not spoken out on Nov. 14, calling on Beijing to research Ms. Peng’s accusations and cease making an attempt to bury her case.

Confronting China has include substantial penalties for different sports activities organizations. But Mr. Simon told CNN that the WTA was ready to pull its business out of China over the matter.

Fellow tennis luminaries — the record to date consists of Naomi Osaka, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal and Billie Jean King — have been talking out in assist of Ms. Peng. The Spanish soccer star Gerard Piqué posted with the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai to his 20 million Twitter followers.

The Biden Administration and United Nations human rights workplace have joined the calls for Beijing to supply proof of Ms. Peng’s well-being.

The International Olympic Committee initially stated that it was happy with reviews that she was secure, although it later steered that it was participating in “quiet diplomacy” to untangle the scenario. In an interview with Reuters, the committee’s longest-serving member, Dick Pound, stated he doubted the problem would result in a cancellation of the Winter Games. But he additionally couldn’t rule it out, he stated.

“If that’s not resolved in a sensible way very soon it may spin out of control,” Mr. Pound instructed the information company.

On Saturday, The Wall Street Journal printed an essay by Enes Kanter, a middle for the Boston Celtics, by which he referred to as for the Winter Games to be moved from Beijing. Mr. Kanter has been a vocal critic of the Chinese government, assailing its insurance policies in Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The National Basketball Association’s streaming companion in China has pulled Celtics video games from its platform in response.

“All the gold medals in the world aren’t worth selling your values and your principles to the Chinese Communist Party,” Mr. Kanter wrote in The Journal.

Nothing. Not formally, no less than.

Instead, Chinese state-run information organizations and their staff have been the only quasi-official voices from the nation to weigh in. Notably, they’re doing so on Twitter, which is blocked inside China. Their messages look like aimed particularly at persuading the broader world.

First, a Chinese state broadcaster posted an email on Twitter, written in English and attributed to Ms. Peng, that disavowed the assault accusation and stated she was simply “resting at home.” Mr. Simon dismissed the email as a crude fabrication and stated it solely deepened his issues for the tennis star’s security.

Then, Hu Xijin, the editor in chief of the state-controlled newspaper Global Times, started sharing movies that seem to indicate Ms. Peng together with his 450,000 Twitter followers.

In Mr. Hu’s first Twitter remarks on the subject, he stated he didn’t imagine Ms. Peng was being punished “for the thing that people talked about,” declining even to state the character of her accusations.

On Saturday, Mr. Hu posted two video clips that he stated he had “acquired.”

In one clip, a person is talking with a girl who seems to be Ms. Peng at a restaurant when he refers to tomorrow as Nov. 20. Another girl on the desk corrects him, saying tomorrow is the twenty first. Ms. Peng nods in settlement.

The man seems to be Zhang Junhui, an government with the China Open tennis event.

On Sunday, Mr. Hu posted one other clip, which he stated had been shot by a Global Times worker, that reveals Ms. Peng on the opening ceremony of a tennis occasion in Beijing. Zhang Junhui appears to be standing to Ms. Peng’s proper.

The China Open posted images from the identical occasion on its Weibo account on Sunday. The images present Ms. Peng waving to the group and autographing tennis balls, though the put up doesn’t identify her.

Mr. Hu has not shared any of those movies on Weibo, the place he has 24 million followers.

In a statement, Mr. Simon of the WTA stated the clips alone have been “insufficient” to show that Ms. Peng was not going through coercion.

“Our relationship with China is at a crossroads,” he stated.

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