Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai’s sexual assault claim last month sparked global outcry
Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has denied alleging that a senior Communist Party leader sexually assaulted her and insisted she is living freely, in her first media interview since her accusations triggered concerns for her safety.
However, the comments did not ease worries at the Women’s Tennis Association, which said Monday that it still had “significant concerns about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion”.
In comments to Lianhe Zaobao, a Singaporean Chinese-language newspaper, Peng denied making the allegation.
“I would like to emphasise this point very clearly.”
The former Wimbledon and French Open doubles champion then disappeared from public appearances for around three weeks.
In the Zaobao video, when asked about the Weibo statement, Peng did not deny the post but described it as a “private matter” that people had “many misunderstandings” about.
In the video, a person is heard asking if she is able to move around freely and if she has been under surveillance since making the accusations.
The WTA said it was still not convinced of Peng’s wellbeing.
The WTA has suspended all tournaments in China, including Hong Kong, over concerns about Peng.
The latest video follows images of Peng published by Chinese state media, including some of her at a tennis tournament.
But that did little to ease worries.
In the latest video, dressed in a red T-shirt and dark down jacket, both with “China” emblazoned on them, Peng told Zaobao that the email was legitimate and written “entirely of my own free will”.
In Peng’s original post in November — removed after about thirty minutes — she purportedly accused Zhang of pressuring her into sex, and wrote that she was “very scared” and “kept crying”.
All discussion of Peng’s claims have been quickly scrubbed from China’s tightly-controlled internet, and the foreign ministry has said the case was being “maliciously” hyped up.