Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai has been missing for several weeks. Shortly before, she had made a case of sexual abuse public on social media.
The cry, “Where is Peng Shuai?” shakes the tennis world – and causes a stir outside of China too. In the two weeks since the 35-year-old made allegations of alleged sexual assault by a top Chinese politician public, the former Wimbledon and French Open double winner has not been seen. It is considered to have disappeared. The tennis associations are deeply concerned about their fate, as are their tennis colleagues such as Naomi Osaka or Chris Evert.
“I am in shock at the current situation and send love and light in their direction,” wrote Japan’s star Osaka on Twitter on Wednesday. She criticized China’s censorship, which prevents any debate on the case on the internet and social media. “I hope that Peng Shuai and her family are safe and well.”
Naomi Osaka worries about her colleague. (Source: Shutterstock / imago images)
The former world number one Evert called the allegations “very disturbing”. “We should all be concerned,” wrote the American, who has known Peng Shuai since she was 14, on Twitter. “This is serious. Where is she? Is she safe?”
Peng Shuai’s post in the Chinese Twitter counterpart “Weibo” was deleted only half an hour after it was published. In it, she revealed that she had had an intermittent relationship with the married former Vice Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli for a period of ten years. The article speaks of love and affection, but also of an unwanted sexual assault – but without any evidence of the allegation being presented, as it said. The authenticity of the posting via your “Weibo” account could not be verified.
The news hit China. The censorship went into full swing because 75-year-old Zhang Gaoli was one of the most powerful politicians in China. He was Deputy Prime Minister from 2013 to 2018 – and from 2012 to 2017 even a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, the Communist Party’s highest body of power. It is the first case in which a prominent politician has been caught in the crossfire since the #MeToo movement entered China in 2018. Since then, a few cases had come to light in academia, journalism, and the business world, among others.
Zhang Gaoli giving a speech in December 2017. (Source: Xinhua / imago images)
It is not uncommon for uncomfortable voices in China to “disappear,” as it is called.
Today, Peng Shuai’s “Weibo” account is no longer available. Neither your name nor #MeToo can be searched on the Chinese Internet. The latest news that can be found about the tennis star is from 2016. The Hong Kong newspaper “South China Morning Post” quoted someone who used to work for their team that Peng Shuai could not be contacted.
For years, Peng Shuai was one of the best doubles players in the world. She celebrated 23 tournament victories, including the titles at Wimbledon 2013 and the French Open 2014. She has not played on the tour since the end of February last year.