China claims that the tennis star’s case was fabricated
China’s most blunt response to the controversy surrounding tennis player Peng Shuai has been that it has been maliciously built up.
After bringing sexual assault charges against China’s former vice premier, Ms Peng disappeared from public view for about three weeks, causing great international alarm. She has since reappeared, although her whereabouts remain unknown.
China’s foreign ministry stated on Tuesday that it was not a diplomatic problem.
Ms Peng, 35, is a prominent tennis player in China. In a 1,600-word post on the Chinese social media platform Weibo earlier this month, she claimed that former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli forced her to have sexual contact with him.
“I will tell the truth about you, even if it means striking a stone with a pebble or attacking a flame and courting self-destruction,” she wrote.
It was the first time such a charge had been levelled against a top Chinese politician. Mr Zhang has yet to respond to the allegations levelled against him.
For several weeks after uploading her post on Weibo, the tennis star was neither heard from nor seen in public. Her safety became a source of international worry, with players like Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka joining appeals from governments and tennis officials seeking assurances that she was secure. As a result of the criticism, Chinese official media released a series of images and videos that claimed to prove that everything was well.
Peng had a video conference with the head of the International Olympic Committee over the weekend, and the committee released a statement saying she appeared safe and healthy. A state media journalist also shared a video clip showing her laughing and standing with authorities at a tennis tournament, which he claimed was from Sunday.
However, there are still concerns about her safety and well-being.
The recent films “do not alleviate or resolve concern about her wellbeing and ability to communicate without restriction or compulsion,” according to the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). A group of Chinese feminists held a rally in New York on Sunday in support of Ms Peng.