Tennis star Peng Shuai went missing earlier this month after she posted a statement on social media where she accuses Zhang Gaoli, a former member of the party’s Standing Committee, the ruling inner circle of power, of forcing her to have sex despite she refusing him several times.
Luckily, Peng appeared in public at a youth tournament in Beijing on Sunday. The organizer released some photos of the event where she can be seen standing beside a court, waving and signing oversized commemorative tennis balls for children.
The Communist Party of China allegedly tried to hush up the whole thing about Peng, and the post by the China Open on the Weibo social media service didn’t mention anything about Peng’s disappearance or her accusation.
The state-run media posted a video of the event along with another video where Peng could be seen in a restaurant, after which the editor of a party newspaper made an announcement Saturday on Twitter that the three-time Olympian would “show up in public” soon, but this post can’t be seen by most internet users in China.
Steve Simon, chairman and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association, made a statement after the release of the restaurant video: “While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference. This video alone is insufficient. As I have stated from the beginning, I remain concerned about Peng Shuai’s health and safety and that the allegation of sexual assault is being censored and swept under the rug. I have been clear about what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads.”
Thomas Bach, International Olympic Committee president, held a video call with Peng on Sunday and said that she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time.
Emma Terho, the chair of the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission added: “I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing fine, which was our main concern. She appeared to be relaxed. I offered her our support and to stay in touch at any time of her convenience, which she obviously appreciated.”
Dave Haggerty, the International Tennis Federation president and International Olympic Committee member, made a statement on Sunday where he says that the federation’s primary concern is Peng Shuai’s safety and her well-being, adding: “The videos of her this weekend appear to be a positive step, but we will continue to seek direct engagement and confirmation from Peng Shuai herself that she is safe and well.”
Tennis players around the world also had something to say, and one of them was Roger Federer who said this on Saturday: “She’s one of our tennis champions, a former world No. 1, and clearly it’s concerning. I hope she’s safe. The tennis family sticks together, and I’ve always told my children as well that the tennis family is my second family. I’ve been on tour for 20-25 years and I love the tour. I love the people that are there, [they] are special, the players as well, and she’s one of them.”
The Chinese capital plans to hold the Winter Olympics in February, which could be a little awkward as China’s Foreign Ministry has repeatedly denied any knowledge about Peng’s case.